Every year hundreds of young, idealistic recent college graduates flood into New Orleans to teach at the city’s public schools. But in a school system where the vast majority of students are African American, the mostly white influx of new teachers has brought complaints of racism and cultural insensitivity, and helped birth a new student-led protest movement.
African Americans are about 60 percent of New Orleans’ population (down from 67 percent before Hurricane Katrina) but make up 88 percent of the city’s public school system. White students are clustered at a handful of high-performing schools, and other ethnicities make up only small portions of the system, so most schools are almost entirely African American. Before Hurricane Katrina, most teachers were black women, mostly from New Orleans and often from the neighborhoods of the schools in which they worked.