School Closures Disproportionately Affect African American Students
One of the four approved school turnaround plans in the federal Race to the Top, School Improvement Grants, and the newer No Child Left Behind Waivers is to close a struggling school and move the children elsewhere or turn the school into a privatized charter school. The School Improvement Grant program is targeted to the schools where test scores are in the bottom 5 percent nationwide. This means that school closures punish the poorest schools, very often located in the poorest neighborhoods of big cities. These programs have been in place for long enough that we are seeing how all this plays out from city to city.
February 28, 2013: Closing so-called failing schools is one of the hallmarks of school reform as prescribed by programs like Race to the Top and School Improvement Grants. School closure has been a hallmark of reform in Chicago and New York City, where the New York Times describes the pending closure of a rather new, experimental school in Born as a Tribute but Faltering, a Bronx School Nears Its End.
October 16, 2012: Education Week reports on school closings—a key strategy promoted for states and school districts to qualify for federal School Improvement Grants, and NCLB waivers. School Shutdowns Trigger Growing Backlash. Community organizations in NYC, Washington, DC, Chicago, Newark, and Philadelphia have filed separate civil rights complaints to the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights to protest closing public schools that are central community institutions.
The Rev. John Thomas, the UCC’s former General Minister and President and now a professor and administrator at the Chicago Theological Seminary, has been posting moving commentary on his Chicago Theological Seminary Blog on the May 22 closure of fifty public schools in Chicago. Read from May 30, 2013, Vanished Names and Cultural Amnesia; and from May 23, 2013, No Act of God Caused Chicago Schools to Close.
The powerful film (below), featuring UCC pastor, Rev. Julian De Shazier of University Church in Hyde Park, Chicago, protests the closing of Miriam Carter Middle School.
April 3, 2013: In an in-depth report, Losing Track, Chicago-Catalyst reports, "After last year’s shut-down of four small elementary schools, most children didn’t land in better schools and the fate of 51 children is still unclear. With the district ready to close dozens more schools, anxiety is high that more children will fall through the cracks."