Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Activists Protest Philadelphia School Closings

Plans to close 37 Philadelphia schools have set off an emotional firestorm and allegations of discrimination.

This week, the U.S. Department of Education confirmed that it was looking into complaints that school closings in Philadelphia, Detroit and Newark discriminate against Latino and black students, the New York Times reported. Officials are also looking into the impact on students with disabilities. About 19 percent of the school district’s students are Latino and 55 percent are black.

The Philadelphia plan aims to rid the system of a $1.1 billion deficit and cut the number of underused and low-performing schools. Final approval on the closures is scheduled for March.

The situation is complicated. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that there are about 53,000 empty seats in schools in the city, most heavily in the north and west part of the city. Meanwhile, the schools with greater numbers of white students are more likely to be at or over capacity.

If the activists are able to win over the U.S. Department of Education, that would be a big change. The Huffington Post reports that the Office of Civil Rights has investigated 27 school closings between October 2010 and January 2013, but found no violations in any of the cases. The office has 33 open cases in 22 states.

How much do school closings impact children’s education? If your district is considering closing schools, what are the demographics of that campus versus the entire district?


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