Mass school closings have been on the rise as of late, displacing thousands of children in cities such as Oakland, Philadelphia, DC, New York and Chicago. An unfortunate move by the city’s school district, large numbers of schools permanently lock their doors within one year under the guise of safeguarding student well being. Proponents of mass closings highlight school failings like low academic performance and poor facility conditions as the driving factor, but critics aren’t buying it. In fact, many suggest this epidemic is rooted in racism and greed, since the vast majority of students adversely affected by mass school shutdowns are Black and Latino. The avarice nature of it is linked to the rise in charter schools, which often function inside recently defunct public schools.
Educational downsizers rationale imply children left school-less by mass closures are better off, as they now have an opportunity to attend better schools with safer conditions. Studies have found that this is not the rule, not even the exception. Trymaine Lee’s examination of nation wide school closures reveals their effect on children’s self esteem, the impact on the immediate community and most importantly, student safety. Lee’s story on Khyrie Hawkins illustrates the latter. 13-year-old Hawkins is one of 9000 students affected by the Philadelphia School District’s decision to close 23 schools in one fell swoop last summer. As a result, Hawkins now attends a school requiring him to walk right through a neighborhood called Strawberry Mansion. Don’t be fooled by the name. As a native Philly-delphian I can attest that this the last place any parent would want their child to traverse (twice a day no less) – it’s considered one of the most murderous regions for a reason.
Parent’s Across America offers a glaringly simple outline explaining the various downsides of mass closures. Their findings demonstrate that overall, school shutdowns do not offer better academic outcomes for students nor is it cost effective. Moreover, school closings are more likely to:
- Cause students to feel stigmatized,
- Increase the likelihood that affected students will drop out,
- Lead to increased school violence,
- Lower the likelihood that students will attend summer school programs,
- Increase school-to-school mobility,
- Disrupt peer relationships,
- Weaken student relationships with adults,
- Lower achievement levels for students in the receiving schools, and
- Leave students with few social and emotional supports to help them adjust to the challenges of their new school.
With a trend like this on the rise, concerns for the youth impacted by it increase as well. Counterpunch contributors Michelle Renee Matisons & Seth Sandronsky leave us with some troubling food for thought: “Will there be a time when the term ‘school to prison pipeline’ becomes ‘the home to prison pipeline’ or the ‘home to military pipeline’ because there are simply no more schools to speak of? If you interpret the public school closure epidemic sweeping U.S. cities as a deliberate attack on primarily poor black, Latino, and immigrant communities, then you already understand more than many politicians, judges, CEOs, and education policy apologists/analysts will concede.”