- Associated Press - Thursday, June 12, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Forty-five percent of New Orleans voters surveyed in May said public schools in the city are getting better - while only 18 percent believe they are getting worse, according to figures released Thursday by a Tulane University think tank.

However, while 45 percent of the 602 respondents said they would recommend that friends or family send their children to a New Orleans public school, 44 percent said they would not.

“Advocates argue the reforms are a complete success; others claim complete failure. This poll suggests New Orleans voters have a nuanced view,” the Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives said in its report on the poll results.

The survey comes as the Recovery School District, the state agency that took over most New Orleans schools after Hurricane Katrina, prepares for a new school year in which all of those schools, now totaling 59, will be run by independent charter organizations.

In the complicated patchwork system of school governance that developed after Hurricane Katrina, the state Recovery School District continues to oversee most schools. The Orleans Parish School System, which had developed a reputation for corruption and ineffectiveness before Katrina hit in 2005, was left with relatively few schools. It now oversees 20, running five directly and chartering the rest. A few schools are chartered by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Despite the complexity, most surveyed voters were in no hurry to return schools the School Board’s authority.

Only 18 percent said all schools should be returned to School Board control in the next two years; 11 percent, in the next five years. Forty-one percent favor the current policy of giving each RSD an option to return to the school board - if it is no longer considered a failing school.

And 53 percent of the respondents said they favor the current system giving parents a choice of schools to apply to for their children over the old system of requiring attendance at a school in a given neighborhood,

The poll was conducted for the Cowen Institute by political consultant firm BDPC, LLC from May 1-3. Questions were asked of 602 “likely voters” - those registered voters who have voted in four of the last 10 elections or have registered since 2012. The margin for error was listed as plus or minus 4 percent.

Fifty-three percent of respondents were African-American; 36 percent, white. More white respondents said they believed the schools are improving than black - 50 percent compared to 42 percent.

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