Faced with declining enrollment and budget cuts, school districts in major U.S. cities are considering closing schools. Students in these districts will be rerouted to different schools, some much further away from their homes. Districts can allocate that the money that would be used to repair old buildings to instead pay teachers and upgrade equipment. Some say it’s a way to save money, others say it destroys communities.
The Philadelphia School District might have to close as many as 37 schools by June. The district says this will improve the quality of the remaining schools. Though many of these schools suffer from low attendance, educators fear that closing these schools will undo the efforts to fix the problem. Between closings, program changes and new grade configurations, the closings could affect as many as 17,000 students.
Unfortunately, Philadelphia isn’t the only city facing massive closures. Chicago could close as many as 129 schools this year, though that list – initially released by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel – will likely be pared down by Chicago Public Schools Chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett. But the plan has strong, high-profile critics. “This whole approach that you can fix the schools by closing them sounds a lot like Vietnam: You can save the village by bombing it,” Diane Ravitch, assistant secretary of education under George H.W. Bush and current New York University professor told the Chicago Sun-Times in an interview.
By the end of 2013, Detroit will have closed 44 schools over two years. But beyond low student attendance and run-down buildings, many schools lack the funds to pay teachers. Washington, Cleveland and Kansas City, Mo. are all facing similar troubles. Meanwhile, the threat of sequestration cuts makes the future even less certain.
Do you think that school closings are harmful or eventually helpful to a district? Have you faced this in your school?