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FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Letís define meaning of rebuilding New Orleans

By a comfortable margin, people surveyed in a CBS/New York Times poll say they are willing to pay higher taxes to help with recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

By a wide majority, those asked in the poll said that rebuilding New Orleans is more important than cutting taxes or reforming Social Security.

New estimates come out every day about the total cost of rebuilding, and each one goes higher. The latest is $200 billion.

Does rebuilding mean returning a portion of New Orleans to poverty and perhaps the worst school system in the nation?

Or does it mean building a model city in which all of the people have a fighting chance to be successful, live in decent housing, find a job and not worry about crime and corruption?

The New Orleans school system, the essential ingredient in banishing poverty, was already drowning long before Katrina made it official. Scandals and lack of leadership plagued the schools, which had four acting or appointed superintendents in the last four years.

The school board this summer had to hire a private management company after discovering the administration was more than $25 million in debt.

While the school board squabbled, English and math scores plummeted, the school buildings became unsafe and violence soared. State officials openly labeled board members as incompetent.

Perhaps so, but one member, Jimmy Fahrenholtz, seems to grasp the futility. He said he would like to think that it is God's will that Katrina made the school system inoperable. He said for two years he has wanted to tear down the system and start over.

That appeals to many outsiders who must help pay for rebuilding. This is truly an opportunity to create a model school system. But that majority support will fade quickly at first sight of tax dollars squandered to replicate a failed system.

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