The disadvantage may be nowhere more glaring than in New Orleans, where indigent people sit in jail uncharged, sometimes for months, waiting for a lawyer whose workload far exceeds any reasonable standard. Professional guidelines recommend that public defenders handle no more than 400 misdemeanor cases in a year, yet a 2009 report found that part-time public defenders in Orleans Parish handled the equivalent of 19,000 misdemeanor cases per attorney annually — which means an average of about seven minutes spent by a lawyer on each case.

The Recovery School District reprimanded nine New Orleans charter schools in the first four months of a accountability system that aims to tighten oversight of 59 largely independent campuses, according to public records. It’s part of a national trend to balance charters’ autonomy with the opportunity to intervene when problems arise.

[State Commissioner of Higher Education Jim] Purcell said state schools have a good shot at coming out ahead if Obama’s plans come to fruition. “Our tuition has always been historically low. We’re 46th in the nation,” he said. “The second factor is looking at what our graduates do. Our public universities have an opportunity to look good.” On the other hand, Purcell said, Louisiana may fall short nationally on “total means of financing” or in other words, tuition plus state funding to higher education, which has dipped by roughly $690 million here since 2008.

Mark Moseley

Mark Moseley blogs at Your Right Hand Thief. Until mid 2014, Mark Moseley was The Lens' opinion writer, engagement specialist and coordinator for the Charter Schools Reporting Corps. After Katrina and...