School closings protested in Philadelphia, Detroit, Newark . . .


by David Safier

TUSD is in the process of closing 11 schools, on top of the 9 schools
closed in 2010. In both cases, there have been outcries from parents
and educators as well as people involved in TUSD's legal desegregation
battles. It's important to put our local struggles into a national
perspective. Similar proposed closures and protests are in process in 18 cities
across the nation right now, and people opposing the closures don't
need a federally mandated desegregation order to claim there's racial
bias involved or to appeal to higher authorities.

Philadelphia has plans to close 37 schools due to budget shortfalls.
People opposing the plan in Philly as well as similar plans in Detroit
and Newark have complained to the U.S. Department of Education that the
closings discriminate against black students, Hispanic students and
students with disabilities.

All of these school districts are faced with tough choices —
dwindling budgets, dwindling enrollments, under-utilized schools. At the
same time, students, parents, communities and teachers are faced with
dramatic upheavals that can affect individual lives and the economic
health of communities for decades into the future. It's inevitable that
clashes great and small will occur in these communities — not only
inevitable, but healthy. People need to make their voices heard. They need to speak
truth and passion to power. They have an obligation to do everything they can to
protect their interests, more so if their economic and social
conditions rob them of the kind of political power that more affluent communities consider to be their birthright. And if districts must close
schools, they need to hear for those who are most affected so they are
in a position to make the best decisions. That's how the system
should work.