Editor’s Note: This submission comes from Umang Patel of Fight for Philly, a 99 Uniting coalition member.
On Thursday, January 10th, members of the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS) and Fight for Philly went to City Hall to tell City Council to request a moratorium on the closing of Philadelphia public schools. Coalition members met with Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell – a strong supporter of public education – to ask her to urge her peers to join the fight against school closings.
The Philadelphia School District is planning to do away with 37 public schools throughout the city. The PCAPS coalition is pushing for a year-long ban on the closings, asking for more time before making hasty changes that will disrupt the lives of thousands of families. A delay would also give District leaders time to secure additional funding for public schools. PCAPS hopes to encourage Mayor Nutter and others to aggressively pursue additional revenue, which they say can be obtained through tax reform and collecting unpaid real estate taxes. PCAPS cites reports that as much as $500 million is uncollected.
According to PCAPS, these massive school closings would:
Hurt our neighborhoods. Neighborhood schools are hubs of community activity. Closing a school increases blight and creates more problems in poor neighborhoods of color that already have more than their share. What is the cost of blight?
Uproot children and place them at risk. Students will be forced to travel outside their neighborhoods. They will face greater risk of harm from traffic and age-‐old rivalries. What will be the cost of this added danger?
Be of NO HELP to academics. Most of the schools that students will be moved to are not significantly different than those being closed. The mass closing plan includes no new funds for the more crowded, receiving schools. What is the cost of larger classes?
Save relatively little. The $28 million we are told will be saved is less than 1% of the district budget. New transportation costs, security costs, maintenance, conversion of buildings into grade schools, and the cost to communities of lost property value from the vacant buildings are not mentioned. Forget savings! What will the COST be?
Increase Poverty. The loss of hundreds of good jobs will drive more families into poverty. In one of the poorest cities in the country, can we really afford to cause disruption for families by destroying good jobs?
It’s obvious that closing schools would devastate our families and their children. We need to demand the school district’s leadership find solutions that reduce the chaos in our communities and make neighborhood schools better for all.