From The Grio — DETROIT, MI – Talk of school closures has the educators of Detroit in a fierce battle against Robert Bobb, the man in charge of turning around Detroit Public Schools’ fiscal disaster. Bobb’s decision to shut down or consolidate up to 41 public schools by June to balance the budget has come under heavy scrutiny in a series of public town hall meetings. Friday, Detroit’s Board of Education can celebrate a small victory as it won a preliminary injunction from the Wayne County Circuit Court to temporarily halt the emergency financial manager’s school closing plan. Yet, the debate rages on as Detroit attempts to revamp its public school system.
This situation isn’t just the song cry of Detroit. Due to the recession and declining enrollment in many major school districts, other cities are looking to school closures to solve their harrowing deficits and poor student performance. Students in Cleveland recently received new school assignments after the district shut down 15 of its 121 schools. Kansas City, MO is preparing to eliminate nearly half of its schools; and even New York City is trying to figure out a new strategy to shutter 19 of its public schools after a state judge stalled their plans last month.
Unfortunately, once districts start cutting, it can be difficult to stop the bleeding. Detroit is the most drastic case with 64 schools shut down in 2007, 29 schools last year, and there are plans to close another 13 by 2012 in addition to this year’s school closures. In all, this would leave Detroit with just half of the schools it had only five years ago. New York City, to a lesser degree, is reported to have closed 91 schools since 2002; and Washington, D.C. already cut 23 schools two years ago before closing or consolidating another 27 last year. Dr. Dalton Conley, the Dean for Social Sciences at New York University and the author of “Being Black, Living in the Red”, calls it a vicious cycle that needs new and innovative approaches for results. “Schools get cut. Then the parents don’t want to live there anymore. Depopulation occurs causing the tax base to go down. And then the schools get worse, and it’s all just a part of a never-ending cycle.”
While budgets need to be balanced, this tendency to cut schools in order to reduce budget deficits creates a concerning pattern for the children affected. Dr. Conley says usually children are left to deal with longer commutes, are forced to adjust to new teachers and classmates, and must learn in larger classrooms every time their school is closed. In addition, the students being hit hardest by this disruption in their education are predominantly African-American and, most often, economically disadvantaged. African-Americans make up 64 percent of Kansas City’s student population; 70 percent of Cleveland’s; and a whopping 88 percent of Detroit’s. To make matters worse, all of these districts have graduation rates below the national average of 71 percent. (Continue Reading Article @ The Grio…)
Photo Source: AP Photo/Patricia Beck, Detroit Free Press