The sight of children lamenting the School Reform Commission’s decision to close 23 schools was heart-wrenching. And although I feel for those students, I’m convinced that the decision to close some of Philadelphia’s schools is the right one, because a school district with 70,000 empty seats is unsustainable.
Still, I understand the angst of those who live in the affected communities, because the city has spent decades earning their mistrust. When Blacks from states like South Carolina moved to Philadelphia in the 1940s, racial attacks and employment discrimination were followed by White flight and disinvestment. The unease of the '50s and '60s preceded police abuses under Frank Rizzo, and when drugs poured into poor communities like Kensington in the 1980s -- destroying lives regardless of race -- increased violent crime and mass imprisonment ensued. We have yet to recover.
Today, with neighborhoods like Francisville, Northern Liberties, Point Breeze and others on the upswing, the impoverished are being pushed out in favor of well-heeled newcomers, and new property tax assessments could accelerate that process.