Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 1.27.26 PMMass school closings have been on the rise as of late, displacing thousands of children in cities such as Oakland, Philadelphia, DC, New York and Chicago. An unfortunate move by the city’s school district, large numbers of schools permanently lock their doors within one year under the guise of safeguarding student well being. Proponents of mass closings highlight school failings like low academic performance and poor facility conditions as the driving factor, but critics aren’t buying it. In fact, many suggest this epidemic is rooted in racism and greed, since the vast majority of students adversely affected by mass school shutdowns are Black and Latino. The avarice nature of it is linked to the rise in charter schools, which often function inside recently defunct public schools.

Educational downsizers rationale imply children left school-less by mass closures are better off, as they now have an opportunity to attend better schools with safer conditions. Studies have found that this is not the rule, not even the exception. Trymaine Lee’s examination of nation wide school closures reveals their effect on children’s self esteem, the impact on the immediate community and most importantly, student safety. Lee’s story on Khyrie Hawkins illustrates the latter. 13-year-old Hawkins is one of 9000 students affected by the Philadelphia School District’s decision to close 23 schools in one fell swoop last summer. As a result, Hawkins now attends a school requiring him to walk right through a neighborhood called Strawberry Mansion. Don’t be fooled by the name. As a native Philly-delphian I can attest that this the last place any parent would want their child to traverse (twice a day no less) – it’s considered one of the most murderous regions for a reason.

Parent’s Across America offers a glaringly simple outline explaining the various downsides of mass closures. Their findings demonstrate that overall, school shutdowns do not offer better academic outcomes for students nor is it cost effective. Moreover, school closings are more likely to:

  • Cause students to feel stigmatized,
  • Increase the likelihood that affected students will drop out,
  • Lead to increased school violence,
  • Lower the likelihood that students will attend summer school programs,
  • Increase school-to-school mobility,
  • Disrupt peer relationships,
  • Weaken student relationships with adults,
  • Lower achievement levels for students in the receiving schools, and
  • Leave students with few social and emotional supports to help them adjust to the challenges of their new school.

With a trend like this on the rise, concerns for the youth impacted by it increase as well. Counterpunch contributors Michelle Renee Matisons & Seth Sandronsky leave us with some troubling food for thought: “Will there be a time when the term ‘school to prison pipeline’ becomes ‘the home to prison pipeline’ or the ‘home to military pipeline’ because there are simply no more schools to speak of? If you interpret the public school closure epidemic sweeping U.S. cities as a deliberate attack on primarily poor black, Latino, and immigrant communities, then you already understand more than many politicians, judges, CEOs, and education policy apologists/analysts will concede.”


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  • thetruth

    This is happening in Newark, NJ right now. A nearby school just found out that they’re being shut down.

  • Black Womanist

    The end game is jamming more kids in charter schools where each students represents a profit for the charter organization. This process runs amok in the East Baton Rouge Public School System. Another downside is kids from areas with generations long beefs end up in school together. I personally witnessed ten students pummel a kid simply because of the neighborhood he was from. But the profits keep rolling.

  • Allie

    let’s look at the Bill Gates Foundations, Wal-Mart family , and Michelle Rhee’s minions and see their influence in this movement. There is a lot of money to be made in this charter school, anti-teacher union movement… the cost of OUR babies

  • In Chicago, now they’re trying to close some of the charter schools as well. I’m starting to believe it is a systematic plan of taking away our (minorities) rights bit by bit and put us all back in slavery.

  • Radical Change

    Failure should not be rewarded nor continued. They say they need more money but these schools receive 100’s of millions yearly, fact. The city of Detroit spends one BILLION dollars a year for the education of about 83k kids a year, BILLION!!! Yet they have a 50-60% dropout rate! There are kids in schools in third world countries with dirt floors and no running water that are outperforming black kids in urban schools. They say it’s conservatives fault but these cities have been run by Democrats for the last 40+ years from the school board, police department to the mayors office.

    Why in the world would anyone (other than the teachers union) want to keep schools open that FOR THE LAST 40 TO 50 YEARS have had high drop out rates and the overwhelming majority of kids graduating can’t or can barely read, write nor add and subtract? We can’t even start a discussion on their ability to think critically which is required in today’s job market.

    • Adiatc

      Exactly! No one is rushing to close schools that are performing at average or above average level. Why do parents,etc. wait until the school is doing so poorly and take action when it is too late? Where was the concern when your children are barely reading and writing? Why do they wait until people that don’t care about them, make decisions for them? I just don’t understand.

      No school should fail if there are active parents, teachers and administrators working together. But it all begins in the home. And no parent wants to accept responsibility for children who are not learning or prohibiting others from learning. And when the schools won’t or CAN’T teach, you have this issue.