In Philadelphia, the school board announced a decision to close 23 schools this week, and poor, minority neighborhoods will feel the pain, reports the New York Times.
Around the country, districts including Chicago, Newark and Washington have been echoing that rationale, with officials citing budget gaps as they draw up lists of schools to close at the end of the school year. District officials also say they need to close underperforming schools so that students can move to schools where they have a better chance of succeeding.
But critics say that while the spreadsheets or test scores might say one thing, even lower-performing, underused schools can serve as refuges in communities that have little else.
"The school is one of the foundations of the community," said Rosemarie Hatcher, president of the Philadelphia Home and School Council, which represents local home and school associations. "It’s like a village. The schools know our kids and they look out for our kids."
In emotional speeches on Thursday night to Philadelphia's School Reform Commission, more than 30 teachers, students and parents said that children at schools scheduled for closing would have to walk long distances through dangerous neighborhoods to reach their new schools, some of which have poor records on academics, discipline and safety …
School closings fall disproportionately on poor and minority neighborhoods. "These school closings have been happening in communities that were already destabilized by the dismantling of public housing, by gentrification and effects of the economic crisis," said Pauline Lipman, professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Read more at the New York Times.