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.
As policymakers apply ever higher stakes to standardized tests, parents, educators, and students have been speaking out against the damage this causes to their education. In Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Student Union started a photo campaign with the hashtag #MoreThanATest to show just how and why these tests fail to measure their full potential.
It should come as no surprise that recent polls show Pennsylvania voters care deeply about funding for their schools. In the most recent gubernatorial election, Governor Tom Wolf ran and won on a platform largely focused on educational issues and creating a fair funding formula for Pennsylvania's schools.
Pennsylvania schools are the most inequitably funded in the United States, in large part because of the lack of a fair funding formula for distributing state funds and because of Recession-era budget cuts.
While Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and the state legislature argue over his proposed budget increase for education, some districts and parents are taking another route to fight for increased funding for their schools: the courts. The Education Law Center of Pennsylvania and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCP) filed a suit on behalf of six school districts, two associations, and seven parents against the state in an attempt to prove the government's non-compliance in providing the "thorough and efficient" public educational system promised in
No one was entirely happy with the Philadelphia School Reform Commission (SRC)'s vote last week to approve five new charter schools for the district (out of a total of 39 applicants), but for many of the protestors crowding the meeting room, the vote was at least a small victory to limit the financial burden charters have on Philadelphia's already financially struggling public schools.
In just a few weeks, Pennsylvania will get a new governor, Tom Wolf, who far stronger ally of public schools than his predecessor, Tom Corbett. This change in leadership is thanks in large part to the many education organizers across the state, but especially in Philadelphia, who spent the run-up to the gubernatorial elections highlighting the dire impact of Corbett's state budget cuts to schools.
Photo via Philadelphia Inquirer