School & District Management

Phila. School Closings Target Vulnerable Students, Critics Say

By Kristen A. Graham, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Pa. (MCT) — January 29, 2013 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Ramping up their fight against 37 planned public school closings, a coalition including the city teachers’ union, politicians, a pastor, and the head of the local NAACP chapter said Monday that the Philadelphia School District was targeting the city’s most vulnerable students.

Poor students, African American and Latino students, and students with disabilities would all be disproportionately affected by the large-scale closings, according to an analysis completed by the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS).

The district is already the subject of a federal civil rights investigation into the racial patterns of its 2012 school closings, spurred by a complaint by the activist group Action United.

The patterns are the same with this year’s proposed closings, which will be decided upon by the School Reform Commission (SRC) on March 7, PCAPS said at a news conference at Bright Hope Baptist Church in North Philadelphia.

“These closures will devastate already disenfranchised students and their neighborhoods,” said Action United staffer Quanisha Smith.

District-wide, there are 53,000 empty seats in public schools, with a heavy concentration in North and West Philadelphia. Schools in the Northeast, where more white students are concentrated, are generally close to or over capacity.

The district is also in financial trouble, with a projected $1 billion deficit over five years. The SRC recently had to borrow $300 million to pay its bills for the rest of the year.

A district official said that he had not seen the coalition’s analysis and so could not comment on it. He stressed that students affected by the closings would benefit from additional resources at the schools that remain open.

City Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell, who championed a nonbinding resolution calling for a one-year moratorium on closings that passed Council overwhelmingly, said the schools chosen for closing troubled her.

“There just doesn’t seem to be rhyme or reason as to how these decisions were made,” Blackwell said. She pointed out Paul Robeson High School, at 41st and Ludlow Streets in her district, where she said a costly heating system was just installed.

“It reeks of someone or some people sitting in a back room” making decisions without considering the public, Blackwell said.

State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas (D., Phila.), whose district will be hit hard by closures, was indignant.

“A lot of those schools have been closed for no other reason than economics,” Thomas said.

Bright Hope’s pastor, the Rev. Kevin Johnson, himself a district parent, echoed the call for a moratorium and issued a stinging rebuke of Superintendent William R. Hite Jr.'s plan for the district, which includes the closings.

“It doesn’t express a heart for our children,” said Johnson. “Closing buildings will not save the district nearly as much as the district projects. I am gravely concerned about the plan to close 37 public schools.”

J. Whyatt Mondesire, head of the local NAACP chapter, added to the call for a moratorium, which SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos has said was not possible.

The closings, Mondesire said, were “a rush to judgment” with little thought to community impact.

Related Tags:

Copyright (c) 2012, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Pa. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.


Budget & Finance Webinar Leverage New Funding Sources with Data-Informed Practices
Address the whole child using data-informed practices, gain valuable insights, and learn strategies that can benefit your district.
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.
Classroom Technology Webinar
ChatGPT & Education: 8 Ways AI Improves Student Outcomes
Revolutionize student success! Don't miss our expert-led webinar demonstrating practical ways AI tools will elevate learning experiences.
Content provided by Inzata
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Tech Is Everywhere. But Is It Making Schools Better?
Join us for a lively discussion about the ways that technology is being used to improve schools and how it is falling short.

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 & District Management Opinion Principals, Here Are 4 Simple Tips to Communicate Better
To create a positive learning environment, school leaders must master various communication strategies.
Alex Sponheim
4 min read
Photo illustration of a leader effectively communicating with the community
Vanessa Solis/Education Week via Canva
School & District Management Opinion When It Comes to Leadership, Self-Awareness Matters. Here's Why
One leader learned she had a habit of shutting down others' ideas instead of inspiring them. Here's how she changed.
Robin Shrum
6 min read
Picture1 6.19.32 AM
Robin Shrum
School & District Management Opinion Don’t Bewail Summer Vacation for Students, Rethink It
Students experience summer vacation differently, depending on family resources. We should rethink the tradition with that in mind.
2 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School & District Management Women in K-12 Leadership Don't Get Enough Support. Here's What Needs to Change
Fairer family-leave policies, pay transparency, better data collection, and more on-the-job support are elements of the plan.
7 min read
Illustration showing diversity with multi-colored human figures.