School Climate & Safety Letter to the Editor

School Closures Expose Flaws in Choice Plans

August 20, 2013 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

Earlier this year, I attended a hearing at City Hall in Philadelphia. William R. Hite Jr., the superintendent of the city’s public school district, was under fire for a proposal that would shut down 30-odd schools. The plan would consolidate students into fewer buildings, targeting schools experiencing under-enrollment. Philadelphia was then the latest of several urban districts undergoing or considering extensive school closures. (“Fiscal Clouds Swirl Around Philadelphia Schools,” Aug. 21, 2013)

I watched and listened as Mr. Hite responded to hostile questions and accusations—many from parents of students attending targeted schools. He stood behind the proposal, asserting it allowed students from shuttered schools to enroll in higher-performing schools. His pitch to move students into higher-achieving schools, however, did little to calm parents and others in attendance. Parents were primarily concerned about the safety implications of relocating students.

The superintendent’s priorities were to raise achievement and control the district’s budget. The proposal attempted to address both. Parents’ priorities were the immediate well-being of their children. For many students, closures meant longer, more dangerous school routes. Additionally, some would be forced to attend the schools of rival neighborhood gangs. Parents feared for their children’s safety.

Safety is a simple and understandable concern, yet it’s frequently undermined in policymaking. Education policy in the United States is beholden to a powerful school choice movement, one backed by both parties and deep-pocketed foundations. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, a student whose school fails to make adequate yearly progress for consecutive years can transfer schools. The provision’s architects hoped underperforming schools would be compelled to improve or else lose students.

We’ve learned, however, that fewer than 5 percent of eligible students actually transfer.

Parents choose to keep their children in neighborhood schools, safe and close to home. As much as advocates of school choice would like to see children leave their underperforming neighborhood schools, a majority of parents, for safety and other reasons, will see that their children don’t.

Science Standards Offer


Education Development Center

Waltham, Mass.

A version of this article appeared in the August 21, 2013 edition of Education Week as School Closures Expose Flaws in Choice Plans


School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Get a Strong Start to the New School Year
Get insights and actions from Education Week journalists and expert guests on how to start the new school year on strong footing.
Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Supporting 21st Century Skills with a Whole-Child Focus
What skills do students need to succeed in the 21st century? Explore the latest strategies to best prepare students for college, career, and life.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Opinion Schools Have Put Their Money on Security Officers. Is That Smart?
After school shootings, people want policymakers to "do something." But is hiring more law enforcement the right thing?
David S. Knight
5 min read
Illustration of two silhouetted heads facing each other, one is wearing a police hat
wildpixel/iStock/Getty Images
School Climate & Safety From Our Research Center How Many Teachers Have Been Assaulted by Students or Parents? We Asked Educators
Some teachers and principals suggest student misbehavior could be associated with challenges related to returning to in-person learning.
1 min read
Empty classroom in blurred background.
Classrooms were empty during long stretches of remote and hybrid instruction. Some educators suggest student behavior problems are linked to the bumpy transition back to in-person learning.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
School Climate & Safety A Sheriff Is Putting AR-15s in Every School. What Safety Experts Have to Say
The Madison County, N.C., school district made headlines for placing assault rifles in SRO offices ahead of the new school year.
6 min read
AR-15-style rifles are on display at Burbank Ammo & Guns in Burbank, Calif., June 23, 2022. Gun manufacturers have made more than $1 billion from selling AR-15-style guns over the past decade, and for two companies those revenues have tripled over the last three years, a House investigation unveiled Wednesday, July 27, found.
AR-15-style rifles are on display at gun store in Burbank, Calif. School safety experts say it's not unheard of for school districts to place such weapons in schools, but it requires serious consideration of the potential risks.
Jae C. Hong/AP
School Climate & Safety 3 Reasons Many Schools Don't Have Classroom Doors That Lock From the Inside
School facilities experts explain why what seems like a simple school-security is not so simple.
2 min read
A section of a classroom door from Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, is seen as Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw testifies at a Texas Senate hearing at the state capitol, Tuesday, June 21, 2022, in Austin, Texas. Two teachers and 19 students were killed in the mass shooting in Uvalde.
A section of a classroom door from Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, is seen during a Texas Senate hearing on the deadly shooting there.
Eric Gay/AP