tv PBS News Hour PBS July 26, 2010 7:00pm-8:00pm EDT
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> woodruff: good evening. i'm judy woodruff. the web site wikileaks uses major newspapers to release to the public over 75,000 classified military documents detailing five years of u.s. war efforts in afghanistan. >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. on the newshour tonight, authors steve coll and phil smucker assess what the secret material says about the conduct of the war. >> woodruff: phil shenon of the "daily beast" updates us on what is wikileaks and who is behind it. >> brown: fred de sam lazaro reports on the first sentence handed down by a war crimes tribunal to a member of cambodia's "killing fields" regime. >> woodruff: john merrow wraps up his series about the top to bottom efforts by a school superintendent to reform the new orleans public education system
after hurricane katrina. >> making promises, talking publicly about all the big changes he's going to make in the schools. well, it's been three years, time for paul vallas's report card. >> brown: and we look at the impact of the americans with disabilities act on this, the 20th anniversary of the law. >> he didn't come because politicians thought it was a good idea. it came because people with disabilities fought and said we're going to be equal. we're going to have access. >> woodruff: that's all ahead on tonight's newshour. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
station from viewers like you. thank you. >> brown: the huge document dump on the war in afghanistan opened questions today about pakistan's role, the afghan government, and u.s. military actions. it also put the u.s. debate on the war back on the front page. >> it's one of the largest disclosures of classified military information in u.s. history. last night the whistle-blowing web site wikileaks.organize released documents on the afghan war. the nonprofit organization gave the information to the "new york times", the british newspaper "the guardian" and the german mack several weeks ago. each did additional reporting and agreed to withhold publication until wikileaks released it first
. >> brown: speaking to the guardian wikileaks founder defended the decision to release this material. >> in this case, it will show the true nature of this war. and then the public from afghanistan and other nations can see what is going on and take steps to address the problems. >> brown: the enormous cache of files span a period of january 2004 to as recent as december 2009. before president obama competed to a further build-up of troops. "the new york times" reported new evidence that pakistan's intelligence service the isi helped the taliban. one example, ham i had goul former head of the isi was said to urge taliban leaders to focus inside afghan sta in exchange for pakistan turning a blind eye to the presence of thanks forces on its territory. goul spoke to the newshour in a 2002 report after he had retired from the
isi. according-- according to cnn... hate mark now because of what america has done and what america is doing. fbi milling around. midnight knocks on doors. and under the pretext of hunting for al qaeda. >> brown: today goul called the new allegations absolute nonsense. other files in the wikileaks probe suggested insurgents had fired heat seeking missiles at applied aircraft, something never publicly acknowledged. and the guardian and der spiel gel said there were unreported attacks of coalition troops killing hundreds of afghan civilians. the documents were mostly low level field reports. >> they don't include top secret reports. they don't include most reports from u.s. special forces. they don't include reports by the cia. >> brown: he also likened the leak to the opening of
secret police arkives in east germany. a number of reports have linked the leak of the information to bradley manning, a 22-year-old u.s. army enlisted intelligence analyst. he was arrested in late may after leaking helicopter cockpit video from a 2007 baghdad fire fight. in the meantime, this latest leak dominated today's white house briefing. spokesman robert gibbs warned there will be fallout. >> whenever you have the potential for names and for operations and for programs to be out there in the public domain, that it, besides being against the law has the potential to be very harmful to those that are in our military, those that are cooperating with our military and those that are working to keep us safe. >> brown: also today pakistan's ambassador to the u.s. insisted his country is committed to fighting al qaeda and the taliban. he said the leaked information does not reflect
the current situation. and a spokesman for afghan president karzai had this to say. >> by the fact that certain number, a huge number of documents were leaked, that was a shocking news. but so far the substance of this leaked documents were that the president's immediate reaction was that most of this is not new. most of this is what has been discussed in the past. >> brown: even as the document debate heated up president karzai said 52 afghan civilians had died in a nato rocket attack last fly. but a nato spokesman today could not confirm any civilian deaths. >> lehrer: and for a for a closer look at this, we're joined by two people who've written widely on the war. steve coll is president of the new america foundation and a staff writer at the "new yorker." his latest book is "the bin ladens: an arabian family in the american century." and philip smucker is an independent journalist and documentary filmmaker. he's author of "my brother, my enemy: america and the battle of ideas across the islamic world." .
steve coll, as an overview first, are we learning specific new things here or is it a matter involve of seeing it in new detail and official documents? >> i think it's more a matter of seeing it in new detail and official documents. there are bits and pieces and suggestive new evidence of witness reports of isi collaboration with the taliban. you mentioned earlier the possibility of new evidence about civilian deaths in special operations, raids. and some eye witness reports of heat seeking missiles. but i have to say obviously i haven't read all 70,000 documents but the excerpts that are available, the testimony in some of these documents is here say, wouldn't be courtroom ready evidence. these are eye witness reports that often in the case of aircraft incidents turn out to be unreliable. and the testimony about isi is almost all paid informants who claim to be someplace where the writer of the report wasn't also present. >> brown: phil smucker, what jumps out at you? >> well, the preponderance
of evidence that the pakistani military is turning a blind eye, and there's something of a discussion now between whether the guardian is right to say there's no smoking gun and that "new york times", leading with this information. up on the border, it is almost a mute point because you have the pakistani military located there and often they are just continuing with their business, not watching the jihadis as they go up into the mountains, cross into afghanistan to kill americans. >> brown: stay there for a moment with you. these are as we said kind of lowsks level reports. now is that affect how you read it, i mean the rawness of some of these or the unvetted nature of some of these reports? >> well, certainly these are... they're not like the pentagon papers. this is a broad overview of what is going on, the nity gritty at the small american bases. which is kind of astounding, really, because it exposes even what the special forces
are doing and the tactics. so it should be a huge embarrassment to the pentagon. >> brown: so steve coll you started by saying some of the caveats you see in this. what is most significant to you in your reading so far? >> well, i agree with philip that there is a preponderance of evidence even though some of it is tainted and dubious. that reminded us of a historical pattern which u.s. officials have occasionally commented on but which is often is reluctant to be fully honest about in my opinion which is that there is no reason to believe that the pakistani intelligence service has altered its historical collaboration with the taliban in pursuit of what it imagines to be its national interest in afghanistan. at the same time, that government is a major non-nato ally of the united states in receipt of many hundreds of millions of dollars from u.s. taxpayers. it should be unacceptable for the united states to have an ally actively collaborat with militias that are attacking and killing american soldiers, and if these documents raise that question, force it into
the light, then i think that is a constructive contribution. >> brown: let's try to walk through some of the other particulars, phil smucker. one of them that got a lot of attention is the report that the taliban used perhaps used heat seeking missiles. what is the significance. >> well, we have seen sophisticated chinese weapons. these are service to air weapons. they are not stinger missiles. not to be confused with the stingers. but one thing we can confirm covering the story over the last four years is that a lot of the tactics that have come from iraq are being transfered-- transferred by al qaeda in pakistan. it's almost a value-added, what al qaeda is giving to the taliban in pakistan. then they are taking it across the border to attack the americans. >> brown: steve coll, what would you add to that on the heat seeking missiles? >> well, i think the reports that have been excerpted, quote eye witnesses to the
crashing of helicopters, apparently struck by missiles. that could well be an indication of the use of chinese or other missiles. i just take note as a journalist who has covered these things for a long time is that the world's most unreliable witnesss are those that claim to see air disasters from the ground because just the eye isn't very reliable but perhaps there is much richer material than that available. i actually think that the granular accounts of corruption by the afghan government at the local level and the toll of sillian casualties in mistaken raids are probably even more significant than the rest. because they remind us that this war at the local level is experienced often as one in which neither the afghan government nor the noble intentions of the united states translate into the experience of ode afghans. >> brown: what do you make of that? certainly a lot of attention today on the number of what
appear to be undocumented strikes against civilians. >> well, i think the bigger problem there is creating a policy that compensates for civilians when they're injured and killed. because as general petraeus has said, certainly this summer is going to be bloodier than last summer. it could be the worst summer we've seen. and the american public has to be prepared for that. but they have to know that the u.s. government cares about the civilians. and there are going to be accidents. and the bigger problem is that we don't see in these reports a policy that really compensates properly for each case across-the-board. >> brown: what about, let me stay with you, what about one other particular which is the detail on the covert effort by u.s. special forces to go after top taliban leaders, again something that there has been a lot of talk about. and i think people sort of know is happening but here we get more detail. >> right. and i think it's almost
unclear, this is a very bird eye view of what they are doing. is this -- can it be qualified as target add sass nation. we certainly know that that is going on in pakistan with the drones. when we get a beat on an al qaeda leader we attack with a drone. i think that the special forces are going on raids and those raids often become bloody. now that's war. that's not targeted assassination. >> brown: what do you make of that, steve coll, more detail on those kinds of operations. >> well, we've known since 9/11 that much of the eastern and southern afghanistan operations have been turned over to a combination of u.s. special forces and cia para mill tarees and that their main mission has been to identify, capture or kill taliban leaders so i don't think in principal the mission is surprising. i think it's useful to see it in its specificity to understand its complexity, the nature of the mistakes that are made, the consequences of those
mistakes with the broader strategy of persuading afghans that the international community is still a constructive partner of their efforts to reclaim their country. but the basic idea that we're out there shooting bad guys in eastern afghanistan doesn't strike me as new. >> brown: and steve coll, just to help our audience here there is so much more in this. but just help people understand, as someone who has covered the military intelligence for quite a while, how does something like this even happen, that all of these classified documents become public. >> well, obviously we don't know. and wikileaks isn't saying and whatever the three news organizations that partnered with them learned about the origin of the documents, if anything, they're not disclosing. i guess we can observe that after 9/11 one of the criticisms of the intelligence community was that there wasn't enough sharing and that information even at fairly low levels of classification tended to be compartmented into boxes. and we saw in the run-up to 9/11 example approximates of
how that got in the way of effective investigations and effective action. and so there was a big push after 9/11 to encourage the intelligence community through its technology systems and its protocols to share information. and to make it accessible. it would seem that a single individual, i don't know whether that will be born out or not. but somebody had access to quite a lot of documents it is notable that the low level of classification in the world we live in, 90,000 secret documents sounds like a lot but we don't actually know the total universal. it could be millions. and in any event, most sensitive operational information in the u.s. system is kept at the top secret or even more secret compartmented information level. and so far as i know, none or not much of that in this batch. >> brown: steve coll and philip smucker, thank you both very much. >> thanks. >> thank you. >> still to come on the newshour, the wikileaks phenomenon, judgement day in cambodia, the status of
public education in new orleans, and the 20th anniversary of the americans with disabilities act. but first, the other news of the day, here's hari sreenivasan in our news room. >> the embattled chief executive of b.p. tony hayward, is on his way out. reports today said he is expected to take a job with b.p.'s joint venture in russia. hayward came under fire for his handling of the oil spill cleanup. hayward's likely replacement is widely assumed to be bob dudley, the current point man in dealing with the oil spill. and in the gulf, crews headed back to work after remnants of tropical storm "bonnie" cleared out. retired coast guard admiral thad allen said the job is a long way from done.a- e'll continue where we reimmmediate where oil has come to shore. that will still be aggressive, there still oil out there. we still have the possibility that the shore will be impacted i guess for the next four to six weeks so we will continue to monitor that as we move forward.
>> sreenivasan: allen also said a relief well could drill into the blown well in order to plug it by the end of next week. in mexico, federal authorities pursued allegations that prison officials have let inmates carry out mass killings for drug cartels. the latest was last week, when hitmen stormed a birthday party in torreon. they killed 17 people and wounded 18. on sunday, federal prosecutors said the prison staff, including the director, released the inmates and let them use the guards' weapons and official vehicles. wall street extended its recent gains for a third day. the dow jones industrial average was up more than 100 points to close at 10,525. the nasdaq rose nearly 27 points to close at 2296. new federal rules will allow the practice commonly known as jailbreaking. it means owners of apple iphones will be able to unlock the phones legally to download software that apple has not approved, and to switch cellular carriers. in addition, the visually impaired will be allowed to break locks on electronic books to have the texts read aloud with special software. those and other exemptions were announced today by the library of congress, which oversees the copyright office. those are some of the day's major stories.
now, back to judy. >> brown: and we turn to a judgment in cambodia, narrated by special correspondent fred de sam lazaro. he's been covering the international efforts to bring justice to some of those involved in the "killing fields" genocide. >> cambodians gathered across the country to watch today's proceedings in phnom penh at homes, cafes and community centres like this one . >> the former jailer for the communist khmer rouge also known as ... watchesed as his sentence was read, the 67 year ol was found guilty of overseeing the deaths of thousands of come bodeians in the late 1970s during its time of the killing fields. >> the majority of the chamber sentences ... to a single sentence of 75 years of imprisonment. >> reporter: the judges
shaved off 16 years for time served and for his illegal detention in a military prison. it was the first ever verdict rendered by the u.n.-backed tribuneal on the cambodian genocide. but it sparked anger among survivors and family members who were in the courtroom today, expecting a much longer sentence. >> i'm not happy. my people are not happy. i'm angry once again. we suffered once under the khmer rouge. and now we are suffering again. >> reporter: now an american human rights lawyer lost both parents at the prison that he oversaw. >> it comes down to serving 11 and a half hours per life that he took. which is just not comprehensible or acceptable. >> reporter: rob hamill's brother was one of the few personer-- werners to die under the regime after his sailboat was captured by account khmer rouge in 1978. >> all i can say is that my family who are no longer here to see
justice, would not want to see this man walk free even if it is in 19 years time. >> reporter: but the trial commenced two years ago, few cambodians knew much about the international court which has three cambodian and two foreign judges. two-thirds of today's cambodians weren't even born when cat mere rouge were in power. the regime's kingpins are either elderly or long dead, including the recluseive leader pol pot. their pen guide -- genocidal legacy, 2 million deaths is memorialized in modest museums visited by cambodian anforeign tourists, these include the high school dok supervised when it was converted into a prison for-- where some 15,000 people died. several nongovernment organizations and the court itself launched campaigns to educate the cambodian public about the legal proceedings. tens of thousands of citizens and schoolkids from around the country have been bused in on field trips. >> hello and welcome to the
22nd program in our series dok on trial. >> and for several months as many as 2 million cambodians tuned in to a weekly tv show about the trial. >> now we are going to see a selection of evidence given to the court about some of the crimes with which dok has been charged. >> reporter: like the court the tv series was funded by international donors. >> you think the trial has gone well. the process has been pretty impressive. i've supported it because i was one of the victims. i was in prison under the regime. >> reporter: the khmer rouge reg eel i'm fell three decades but the tribuneal was slowed first by cold war politics and for examples with the reluctant cambodian government some of whose leaders were young lieutenants although none will stand trial. still, a person who helped start a group called the victims association says the court sends an important message. >> when you commit a crime, there will be people who try
to put you, to take you into account. these are one of the lessons that the young generation can learn. >> reporter: until recently young cambodians were never formally taught khmer rouge history. a survivor has worked to change that. >> this is the textbook for grade nine through 12. >> he is director of the cambodian document center which published a textbook that is now in the hands of one million cambodian institutes. >> start from the creation of the khmer rouge movement all the way to the fall of the khmer rouge in '79. >> most kids growing up in this country have never learned about it. >> they never learned about this but they heard about that. >> he hopes this knowledge and the publicity surrounding the court trials will finally help the country move on. >> the court help to put the past behind. and that give us the direction that we turn next to the future.
and the court put the past into perspective so that we can learn from it. >> reporter: even though most of cambodia's 14 million people struggle more immediately with poverty and economic survival, the international court is a critical building block for a sound, democratic future says a california-based human rights scholar who has closely followed the court. >> people will have basic needs and need to be attended to. but if you are going to have real progress, you also put in the infrastructure for democracy, infrastructure for the rule of law, infrastructure that will support human rights. because without that, will you always be in an uphill battle. >> reporter: yesterday survivors and relatives held a ceremony to remember those who died at the prison. the prosecution and defense have one month to appeal today's verdict.
>> woodruff: now, we take a closer look at what is wikileaks, and who is behind it. for that we turn to philip shenon, a contributor to the "daily beast" web site, where he has covered the wikileaks story. he is a former investigative reporter for the "new york times." paul shenon, good to have you with us. >> thank you. >> woodruff: so what is wikileaks. >> wikileaks is largely the big project of one julian asage a former computer hacker from australia who decided that he wanted to do his best to make all secrets public. four years ago he set up his web site that was designed to do just that and over these four years it has produced a remarkable number of what you and i will call scoops. >> woodruff: all secret is so he's interested in everything or a few things? >> anything and everything. i mean it had everything from sarah palin's hacked e-mails, to the e-mails among global climate scientists that were described as climategate to the video we know about from april that showed this american air strike in baghdad back in 2007. >> woodruff: so what do they
say is their mission, their purpose? >> well, asage who really is at the heart of everything at wikileaks describes this grand conspiracy between governments and other powerful institutions to hide the truth from the public. and he is going to do his best to make all of that material just as public as he can. >> woodruff: and so when he said we played earlier a quote from him where he said, he said these documents will show the true nature of this war. then the public can take steps to address the problem. so it sounds as if he has an agenda . >> he is certainly somebody who has made clear he is opposed to the war. and the documents do suggest that this war has often gone very, very badly, despite the statements from the bush and the obama administrations of progress in the war. >> woodruff: why the deal with these newspapers, "the new york times", and then two major european papers. because in the past, it is our understanding that asage has been critical of the
mainstream media. >> basically he has real disdain for major news organizations. but i think this was a stroke of genius. it accomplished two things. one is he knew "the new york times" and the guard yand an der spegel would know how to package this for maximum impact and they didn't and also too they did a lot of the vetting for him. he has said he doesn't want to be responsible for deaths of innocent people, for doing real damage to human beings. and "the new york times" and these other organizations are able to vet the material to make sure that doesn't happen. and they can also go a long way to proving the authenticity of this material. >> woodruff: so what is, we spoke about this a few minutes ago a little bit. about what is known about the source or sources of all these documents? >> i think all the evidence on the public record suggests that it was leaked by a single 22-year-old army intelligence special nist iraq, this fellow by the name of bradley manning who is now in custody and charged with stealing classified information.
>> woodruff: 22 years old, an enlisted man, intelligence analyst in the army. how in the world did he get access to important information? >> well, he was an intelligence specialist. this was his field. and you know t is just remarkable what we are learning about how much information, secret information, top secret information is available two very junior officers in the military and other government employees. and i think there must be a real panic in the government at this moment, the thought that there are other young people or not so young people who have access to the same information and can download it with a couple of keystrokes on a computer. >> woodruff: but what does it is a about the value of the material? because we heard steve coll a few minutes ago say that most truly important information, words to this effect, are marked top secret or it has some other classification that is not part of these documents. >> that's true. and apparently these documents are largely secret or low level classified
information. this doesn't include really top secret information. though there are an awful lot of people, not much older than bradley manning. not much more senior who do have access to that material. >> woodruff: does asage, the people around them at wikileaks consider themselves journalists? >> they use that term. but asage is more likely to describe himself as an information activist that his whole goal is to release this information, not so much to put it in the context that most mainstream journalists do. >> woodruff: and what is it, and for these news organizations that took this information, and vetted it as you put it, what was their responsibility? i mean how did they today in putting this out describe what their responsibility was in checking it. >> well, i think this has been extraordinarily uncomfortable for "the new york times" where i worked for more than 20 years. because they don't... when classified information walks into "the new york times", or reporters discover it,
there was a big internal debate about what to do with it, whether or not it could do real damage to national security. and months, years would be taken sometimes to vet this material. in this case, wikileaks set the terms and said you can have it but you can only have it for a month. and apparently a lot of the -- that was released through "the new york times", for example, was not the authenticity, that is still to some extent in question. >> woodruff: and right now we are hearing from wikileaks they have another 15,000 or so pages they:going to release, more than that. >> apparently they had 15,000 pages related to this particular information dump. but sasage was talking today about having a million documents that he wants to make public. >> woodruff: and the nature of that, we'll see. >> he said it involves every nation on earth with a population of more than a million. i think that the 15now he's talking about now are specifically related to the united states. they may be cables from the state department that manning has previously acknowledged leaking to wikileaks.
>> woodruff: it raises all sorts of interesting questions. philip shenon, thank you very much. >> thank you. >> brown: now, as the fifth anniversary of hurricane katrina approaches, the man hired to overhaul new orleans' devastated schools is packing his bags. superintendent paul vallas has been at it for three years. the newshour's special correspondent for education, john merrow, has been tracking his efforts, and tonight wraps up his story. >> reporter: when hurricane katrina hit in 2005 its waters washed away many of new orleans schools and with them, a school system burdened by years of academic failure, mismanagement and corruption. the state seized control of most of the city's schools. the federal government sent millions in disaster relief funds. in new orleans it was a rare chance to build a new school
system from the ground up . >> for paul vallas, the veteran superintendent louisiana hired in 2007 to do the job, the pressure was on. >> we need to move now. we need to start building buildings now, we need to modernize those classrooms now. >> reporter: almost from the time he arrived in new orleans paul vallas began making promises, talking publicly about all the big changes he intended to make in the schools. well, it's been three years, time for paul vallas's report card. >> i give paul very high marks. >> reporter: state superintendent paul pastorek hired paul vallas. >> if you would tell people five years ago what is happening today, no one would have believed it was possible. >> we went newspaper every grade in every subject. and we outperformed everyone else. congratulations. (applause) >> reporter: everyier paul vallas has been in new orleans, test scores have improved. although the city continues
to score far below institutes statewide, the gains are among the highest in louisiana. vallas credits a host of innovations including new school buildings, curriculum and technology. >> we're going to make a power point presentation. >> reporter: and extended school day and year, and hundreds of young idealistic teachers recruited from the nation's top colleges . >> what do you think that is . >> the vast majority of schools have improved. and a large number of schools have shown significant improvement. i think we've had a lot of success. we really created a model district. >> is walter here today. >> no. >> reporter: not all of vallas's reforms have been successful. >> kevin where is kevin? >> reporter: despite a new truancy task force, attendance in many classes remains low . >> he missed physical science and i have 26 institutes on my roster but on any given day i can expect about 17.
>> reporter: a jobs program promised to high school juniors and seniors reached a fraction of institutes. and after-school courses to help institutes catch up and graduate on time has struggled to fill seats. >> all right, yesterday you had to make four observations about four different organisms that you saw in and around the garden. >> reporter: another criticism, many of vallas's new teachers have come from programs like teach for america which requires only a two-year commitment. critics contend that two years is not long enough to have a lasting impact. >> turnover doesn't bother me at all. i submit to you that part of the problem in education is there is not enough turnover. mi very comfortable of et running a district where half of my teachers are university elites and college elites in programs like teachers for america, and veteran teachers. i think that's a very healthy balance. >> reporter: but the largest and most controversial of vallas's changes is his embrace of charter schools
which although publicly funded, have limited government oversight. under vallas's leadership, charters have exploded. before katrina, just 2% of new orleans schools were charters. by next year, two-thirds will be. no other school system in the country has tried charter schools on this scale. >> i am a believer in schools having the freedom and autonomy to make decisions that are in the best interest of the children. and so i support charter schools because charter schools are a vehicle for achieving that type of freedom. >> reporter: at charter schools like sophie b write the principal calls the showss. >> i make sure instruction is in place and effective and it in aligned with the state standards, i make sure the budget is bald and we have money for pay ol ro. i make sure that the kids feel safe, that all programs are running effectively. >> reporter: one of principal sharon clarks first decision was to separate institutes by gender. last year with the support
of parents, she made another change. >> you were talking about adding a 9th grade. >> yes. because we are a charter, we have that option to change our grade configuration based on our community input. and as a result, we now, we are a high school. >> reporter: the school welcomed its first 9th graders last fall. >> look up here. >> reporter: nationally charter schools have proven to be a mixed bag. some show better results on state tests than traditional schools. and some don't. in new orleans charter schools have scored significantly higher. vallas says that's because their survival depends upon it. >> schools know that if they are not performing well academically and if they are not attracting enough kids they are going to be close to consolidated. >> have you seen downsides to charter. >> no, not at all, no. >> reporter: but former new orleans charter leader says he has. >> the problem that i have is that it's taking a entrepreneurial view of schools.
when schools are really not an entrepreneurial business. >> reporter: he believes that new orleans charter schools need more oversight than the state review conducted once every three years. >> if you have a bunch of individual city states, i'm going to do what works best for my city state. and so will this one and so will this one. and the weaker city states or the people who aren't in city states can get really slammed. and i will give you a good example. you know, are you taking every special ed kid who walks in to your door. >> reporter: charter schools like all public schools are not allowed to deny admission to any institutes. but the numbers suggest that some of vallas's charters may be turning away institutes with special needs. in vallas's traditional schools, 12.4% of institutes are enrolled in special education compared to 8.7% in his charters. >> as more schools convert to charters and more are
granted charter like independence, we are agoing to do more policing. we will focus more on accountability. if are you deliberately discouraging people or turning people away, that would be breech of contract. you could lose your charter. >> reporter: teachers union has another concern, just 6% of teachers in charter schools have joined the union. >> i guess i just don't see the benefit of it now. >> reporter: joy askin a teacher at sophie b write was a member of the union before katherinear when she was teaching at a traditional school. >> before when we were under or leans parrish it might be a large group of teachers that had the same concerns. and we could go to the union and then we would have that large voice. well now with us in different little pockets and we have different concerns, we have, might have only three teachers here who don't want to do the program. so you know there is really no need for the union, per se, like we needed it before. >> reporter: but teachers union president larry carter
says teachers need union protections. >> a contract, it only helps to make the school work or run more efficiently and effectively. not just having, you know, little kingdoms where individual persons feel that they can treat employees or even institutes anyway they want to. >> reporter: the union hasn't had a contract with the district since the state takeover. and vallas would like to keep it that way, essentially saying to the teachers of new orleans, trust me. >> what i have tried to do is create a dynamic where you don't really need a collective bargaining agreement. we've really worked to develop a federal debt that takes the wind out of the sail of those out there who would say we need a contract. we need an ironclad contract to protect our members. >> reporter: vallas has had an incentive to maintain the status quo. without a union contract, he's been able to lay the groundwork for his charter school system very quickly. but what the schools will look like moving forward is unclear.
>> it's a very entrepreneurial environment with public education in new orleans. and that's fairly unheard of in our country. the challenge is that there's very little institutional structure to hold it together. how we do that will determine whether it's really going to be sustained. >> reporter: next year new orleans schools will have to weather two big changes, the end of federal funds meant to support schools after katrina and the end of paul vallas's tenure in new orleans. he's already begun a new project, rebuilding earthquake damaged schools in haiti. >> i'll be definitely transitioning out next year. what that means, how quickly, that yet to be determined. >> reporter: but even after he leaves, vallas's confident his makeover of the city schools and school system will remain. >> you can't turn back. charters are authorized by the state. the state would have to not renew them.
the great thing about this system is it's really going to be hard to dismantle what's been created. >> one, two, three. >> reporter: paul vallas's ultimate legacy won't be apparent for some time. in the not too distant future, the state will turn over the schools to the old or leans parrish school board. what it will do with the district that's almost entirely charter schools is an open question. >> brown: as we said that was the last report in john's series about new orleans and paul vallas. if you want to watch some of his earlier stories about the struggles of the past three years, you can find a link to all of those reports and to john's web site on our own web site. >> woodruff: finally tonight, looking at what the americans with disabilities act changed 20 years ago, and the challenges that remain today. >> on july 5th, 1978 linda andre rolled her wheelchair off the curb and on to denver's busy west... avenue
and sat there in the heat for two days. she was one of 19 protestors who blocked downtown bus traffic to call attention to dismal access to public transit for the city's disabled. it was part of a long buildup of frustration and protests among people with disabilitys. who is out better access to travel, job and activities. >> we did sit-ins in washington. we did everything we could, locally, on a local level, with our legislature and the senators and to get it passed. we just would not be quiet. >> reporter: 20 years ago today things began to change when president george h.w. bush signed the americans with disabilities act into law. >> you've called for new source of workers. well many of our fellow citizens with disabilities are unemployed. they want to work and they can work.
and this is a tremendous pool of people. >> reporter: that landmark law established access as a basic right and made it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities. it lead to more ramps and lent to improved entrances to public buses and buildings. curb cuts at intersection and braille on signs. >> look at this,. >> reporter: dawn russell works for the group denver adapts where office walls chronicle 35 years of the disability movement. >> the ada didn't come easy and it didn't come because politicians thought its with a good idea it came because people with disabilities fought and said we're going to be equal. we're going to have access. >> reporter: 51 million americans, that's 18% of the population have at least one disability. half of that group have severe disabilities and nearly 11 million need personal assistants with
daily living skills. but advocates for the disable-- disabled say much work remains to be done. more than half of americans with disabilities are unemployed. many live unwillingingly in nursing homes, because they can't afford needed aid. today and over the weekend the laws's anniversary and its accomplishment was celebrated around the country. in denver, people turned out at the city's bot anic gardens-- on saturday for socializes, speeches and performers. in boise, idaho, today hundreds circled the capitol building. the date was noted in the nation's capitol as well. on capitol hill democrat of rhode island who was paralyzed in a shooting accident 30 years ago, became the first lawmaker to preside over the house of representatives in a wheelchair. for more
for more now on the impact of the a.d.a. and what more could still be done, we are joined by andrew imparato, president and c.e.o. of the american association of people with disabilities, a nonprofit advocacy organization for the disability community. and amelia wallrich, a student at the university of illinois. this summer she is interning at the office of senator dick durbin.n- hank you both for being with us. andrew, how much difference has the ada made. >> you know, i think it's been 20 years and the difference has been gradual. so it is hard, i think, sometimes to remember how inaccessible this country was 20 years ago. one of my favorite examples is buss that people take to get around cities, it was appropriate that you showed adapt because that was the group that really lead that effort. when the ada passed, in denver. when the ada passed, less than 5% of buss were accessible for people in wheelchairs. today over 95% are accessible. that happened in 20 years. and that's just one of many examples where the ada said
when are you doing something new, you need to build in accessibility. and it's been an evolutionary process but our country is much more accessible today than it was 20 years ago. >> woodruff: so it has changed the lives of people with disabilities. >> it's changed the lives with em poo. if you are a parent pushing a stroller, if you are pulling a roller bag behind you, if are you a delivery person delivering something, are you using all of those features that are there because of the ada. >> woodruff: amelia wallrich, are you a young woman in college. how has it changed your life. and you use a wheelchair. >> uh-huh. >> woodruff: how has it changed your life. what are you seeing? >>. >> growing up, i grew up in a very conservative community where disability wasn't embraced as it has been in more recent years, as i've gotten to college. so the thing for me has really been about pride and the disability community and pride in my disability experience. and noticing that it isn't something i have to compensate for. it's a unique perspective that adds to the human experience.
and so for me, joining the disability community and embracing it has really been about pride and the way that the ada breaks down barriers, so that i can embrace that pride. >> woodruff: andrew, how do you see it change for the younger generation and those older americans? >> well, i love that we get to do a congressional internship program and an it internship program every sum we are where i have 18 new college institutes with disabilities every summer come to washington. amelia is in the program this summer. and every year they impress me with how high their expectations are for themselves, how broad their visions are for what they can hope to achieve personally and professionally. how much they learn from each other and go to bat for each other over the course of the summer. so to me it just gets me excited. i think we do have a generation coming through college right now that has very high expectations for themselves. and will push even more rapid changes moving forward. >> woodruff: a meal ya, what
do you see as the challenges out there. i mean are you a college institute. i understand you are interested in being a lawyer. you have been looking into law school entrance exam. >> yeah. >> woodruff: talk about that. >> the biggest challenges are getting people to recognize that the ada and disability access isn't just an issue for the disability community. it's a human rights issue. and therefore we need to be joined by the abled body community. as a disabilityed person t shouldn't just be me fighting it should be my family and my friends recognizing that because i am discriminated against, that they are as well. >> woodruff: and how would you, for example n trying to take the law school entrance exam, the lsat, what have you faced? >> i have had a set of accommodations. i have used my entire educational career that is backed up and supported by doctors and disability specialists. but the lsat commission feels that they know better, that they know my disable better than i do. that i have experienced for 21 years.
and they've decided to deny me accommodations. this puts a huge roadblock in the future that i have planned, that si have expected, that i have worked for for the last 21 years. and so it needs to be about education, the fact that i know my disability experience, and that my doctor knows my disability experience. and therefore i should be allowed at come dayss and the equal opportunity to pursue my future that i have been planning out. >> woodruff: does the ada give, is that a tool for someone like amelia who is interested in going to law school, becoming a lawyer. >> absolutely. the ada is a federal civil rights law. so there ra lot of entities that may prefer not to comply with the ada but it's not an option. it's a law for the whole country. i think one of our challenges is we celebrate 20 years is that there are still institutions in this country that are not embracing their responsibilities under the ada. and you would think that an organization that promotes justice and access to justice would be a model. but in my experience it's
somewhat unpredictable which groups are going to embrace their responsibilities and which aren't. -- a great experience working with wal-mart recently but i know a lot of folks would say, they wouldn't expect leadership from wal-mart. they would expect leadership from the bar. but sometimes the bar, you know, he richt shall did -- erects unnecessary barriers. >> woodruff: talk about the employment barriers out there. i mean we cited these just stunning statistics earlier, over 50% of people with disability can't find a job. >> that's right. and that number has been relatively flat for the last 20 years. and i know senator harkin who is a big champion for the ada is concerned about that. i know senator dole, another champion is concerned. i think one of the reasons why we are not seeing more movement in employment is i think as a country we still don't really expect people with disabilities to work. i will give you a recent example. during health-care reform, they were debating a provision in the bill that made it into the final bill that would enable people to
keep their personal care attendant services and work at the same time. and a senator said in a closed door meeting well people with disabilities don't work, do they. and this just happened. so i really feel like we still have some work to do. and that's why we're excited that president obama is releasing a psa today that's going to air all over the country, both on television and radio, that i think we need that kind of leadership to help education-- educate people about what the expectations are that people with disabilities have for ourselves and why it good for the country when we are working and participating fully. >> woodruff: amelia, what are concrete things you want to see happening in your lifetime that aren't out there right now? >> i want to see more compliance, a lot more universal design. i see a lot of businesses moving into old buildings or constructing new buildings, even, without paying attention to howjd accessible until the final decisions of the plans. >> woodruff: because right now they there are still buildings you can't get into. >> yeah, which go to u of i.
university of illinois in in urbana champagne, one of the most accessible campuses but when i go to town there are only select bars are or restaurants or various things i can go to. and that affects my social life as a college institute which is a big part of the college experience. and even building new school buildings, they kind of think about it last minute instead of thinking about it from the beginning. thinking how can we make sure that this building is accessible for all. how can we make sure that this space works for everyone. >> woodruff: andy, translate that, put that on a national scale. what is it like across the country in terms it of accessibility today? >> well, keep in mind that the ada required more from new construction or major renovations so, in parts of the country that have had a lot of new construction, there's a lot more accessibility that tends to be urban areas that are doing well that can afford to do that kind of development. but there's still lots of parts of this country that have major barriers to accessibility.
and i think that's going to get better over time. but it is going to require leadership at the local level for people to embrace the fact that they have an aging population and we make these improvements. we're enabling everybody in our community to participate more fully. >> main challenge for you and the disability community going forward? >> i would say our biggest challenge is a political one. you know, we want elected officials at all levels to take us seriously as a voting bloc, as a political constituent. i feel like when that happens, we will get farther along in terms of the vision of the americans with disabilities act. we have had wonderful people like former president bush who signed the law. bob dole, tom harkin, ted kennedy, steny huher, all these amazing leaders who did this because they knew it was the right thing to do. we have yet to have somebody do it because they are afraid of us as a voting bloc. >> woodruff: and are you saying that is one of your goals. >> absolutely. >> woodruff: i sit across from the table from you, i
don't feel afraid but... but i understand what you are saying. andy imparato, amelia wallrich, thank you very much, both of you. >> thank you. >> brown: again, the major developments of the day. the web site wikileaks released more than 90,000 classified documents on the war in afghanistan. and it was widely reported that tony hayward is on his way out as b.p.'s chief executive. instead, he'll work for the company's joint venture in russia. the newshour is always online. hari sreenivasan, in our newsroom, previews what's there. hari? >> sreenivasan: judy has penned a blog on the anniversary of the americans with disabilities act and how life has and has not changed for those with disabilities. find that on the rundown. you can find links to the afghan field reports published by wikileaks. and we take a closer look at a library of congress copyright ruling that may make it easier for iphone users to jailbreak their devices and download new software and apps. on art beat, jeff talks to lisa cholodenko, writer and director of the new nontraditional family comedy, "the kids are alright."
all that and more is on our web site, newshour.pbs.org. >> woodruff: and that's the newshour for tonight. on tuesday, we'll look at intelligence gathering since 9/11. i'm judy woodruff. >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. we'll see you online, and again here tomorrow evening. thank you and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting.