Mass school closings have become a hallmark of today's dominant education policy agenda. But rather than helping students, these closures disrupt whole communities. And as U.S. Department of Education data suggests, the most recent rounds of mass closings in Chicago, New York City and Philadelphia disproportionately hurt Black and low-income students.
What can you do to end these discriminatory and unacceptable school closures?
In Lost Opportunity: A 50 State Report on the Opportunity to Learn in America, the Schott Foundation for Public Education establishes a metric for determining the opportunity to learn for students. Providing a state-by-state comparison of both academic proficiency (percentage of students scoring at or above proficient on the eighth grade NAEP reading exam) and equity (as measured by the Schott Foundation’s Opportunity to Learn Index, or OTLI), Lost Opportunity identifies the four baseline minimum resources that are necessary for a child – regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status – to have a fair and substantive Opportunity to Learn.
In the United States, every student should have the equal right to a high-quality education. But as our most recent data demonstrates, for far too many students, quality and equity are aspirations, not realities. Few states are providing public school educations that result in academic proficiency for students. And even fewer states are providing access to a high-quality education to all students, particularly those from historically disadvantaged groups.
With public schools under attack across the nation, it is inspiring to see just how many organizers (many of them students!) are attending rallies, school board meetings and press conferences to defend of their schools and demand the resources and opportunities every student deserves.
As Pennsylvania legislators returned to session on September 23rd, they were greeted at the Capitol by advocates representing 40 districts across the state holding a press conference. The event, organized by Education Voters of Pennsylvania (an OTL ally) and several other groups, brought together parents, teachers, and several legislators to demanding that the state support the creation of an equitable school funding formula.
When 9-year-old Asean Johnson gave his now-famous, fiery speech last spring at a rally to protest the mass closure of 49 Chicago public schools, he drew enough national attention that his school, at least, was spared.
A coalition of parents, students, community members and faith leaders in Philadelphia is threatening to boycott the start of the school year if the district doesn't receive the funds it needs to safely open and staff the city's public schools.
In cities across the country, education officials are closing public schools en masse, impacting thousands of students, disproportionately those from communities of color or low-income families. Officials use a variety of justifications to defend the closures, citing everything from budget concerns to promises of better opportunities for students. But as this new infographic from the OTL Campaign illustrates, these justifications don’t hold up to scrutiny.