Philly district officials to vote on plan to close 12 percent of schools

Mar 8, 2013 by

PHILADELPHIA – The “day of reckoning” has arrived for the Philadelphia school district.

Today the School Reform Commission will decide whether or not to close down as many as 27 city schools. That’s about 12 percent of the total number of schools in the district.philadelphia school reform commission

If officials vote in favor of shuttering the schools, it would be one of the “largest mass school closings” in U.S. history, reports Philly.com.

Philadelphia school leaders have no viable alternatives to the plan.

“The Philadelphia school system is broke, with 53,000 empty seats and a huge stable of buildings it cannot afford to maintain,” Philly.com reports.

“This is crisis time for us,” said Superintendent William Hite Jr.

The district’s crisis has been a long time in the making, say Mark Gleason and Mike Wang, two Philadelphia parent activists.

They claim the low quality of education in many Philadelphia schools has forced students to flee to charter or private schools. That mass exodus left many empty desks in half-filled school buildings.

“For decades, some Philadelphia families have sought out scholarships to attend private schools, while others with means have paid tuition, moved to a different neighborhood or fled the city altogether for a better local school,” Gleason and Wang write in an op-ed for TheNotebook.org.

“More recently, an increasing number of families of all backgrounds are choosing charter schools. Four in 10 of the students who live in neighborhoods with schools recommended for closure have already left in pursuit of something better. The data show that parents and families weighing their options are rarely motivated by a particular type of school; rather, they simply want the safest, highest-quality schools for their children.”

According to Gleason and Wang, top teachers are also fleeing Philadelphia’s public school system.

“The city’s charter schools are filled with former district teachers who moved on in pursuit of working environments that foster collaboration and provide regular coaching and feedback. The culture in these schools revolves around student expectations and teacher effectiveness rather than an outdated 200-page labor contract,” the parent activists wrote in their op-ed.

While those parents seem to understand why the schools are empty, union bosses want to keep them open – undoubtedly to keep more union teachers employed and paying union dues.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten is planning to attend a “pre-vote, anti-closing rally that could draw hundreds outside the School District’s headquarters,” reports Philly.com.

Weingarten wants district officials to “fix” the schools instead of close them.

Philadelphia school leaders say that’s not financially feasible.

“We’re talking about being in a place where we can’t pay people or we can’t open next fall,” Hite said.

Through decades of insisting on “adult first” budgets and burdensome work rules, Weingarten’s union is primarily responsible for this “day of reckoning.”

And that’s a fact that no amount of union rhetoric can change.

via Philly district officials to vote on plan to close 12 percent of schools – EAGnews.org :: Education Research, Reporting, Analysis and Commentary.

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