For many who wanted to change the failing school system in New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina provided a blank slate from which to create opportunity out of tragedy. Now the city is at the forefront of what educators nationwide have dubbed “the great experiment.” Following five children as they navigate a shifting educational landscape, and filmed principally on location,“THE EXPERIMENT” places the current transformation of the city’s public schools at the forefront of a broader national debate.
After the storm, the city witnessed a radical transformation of the public school system from a traditional to a charter model. Currently, three fourths of the public schools are run by “charter” organizations–private companies that use public money to run schools. New Orleans now has more charter schools per capita than any other city in America. For those in favor of it, this transformation serves as a model for the rest of the nation, but for those against, these changes are driven by profit, and a belief that the public sector is one of the last great frontiers for such profit-making.
Director / producer Ben Lemoine films five children, ages 9 to 11, through the 2009-2010 school year and interviews national leaders in education, as well as state and city officials. Lemoine takes an inside look at the current state of education and the social issues that surround it in New Orleans, and explores both the political and the personal implications of these changes. “THE EXPERIMENT” examines the debate through the eyes of those it affects most, and poses the questions that no one seems to be asking – is this a “great experiment” or “privatization.” And are these changes ultimately in the best interests of the children of New Orleans?