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National campaign connects students on issue of school closings

By the Notebook on Sep 20, 2012 01:58 PM
Photo: Ron Whitehorne

Members of Philadelphia Student Union, Youth United for Change, and Action United rally with other youth advocates from across the country outside District headquarters, 440 N. Broad St.

By Charlotte Pope

Student activists brandishing coffin-shaped props rallied on the steps of the School District's headquarters Thursday morning to protest nationwide school closings in a campaign called Journey for Justice.

Young advocates from Boston, Newark, and New York City joined members of the Philadelphia Student Union, Youth United for Change, and Action United for a news conference, and continued to Washington for a rally at the U.S. Department of Education. They demanded a meeting with President Obama.

Philadelphia is just one stop on the Journey for Justice campaign aimed to unite students across the East Coast and spread awareness of mass school closings and their impact on communities of color.

“Our goal is to get people to listen to what we have to say and understand what we’re going through,” said Alicia Duncan, a Philadelphia Student Union member and student at The Promise Academy at West Philadelphia High School.

“They’re making these decisions for us without understanding how we’re dealing with them, and how we’re being affected by them. If they actually listen, and actually understand, the School District will be much better,” she said.

Earlier this year the School Reform Commission hired the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to help strategize how to transform the District. The SRC’s transformation blueprint called for closing up to one-fourth of the District’s schools while expanding enrollment at charters.

According to the BCG report, the District is planning to close between 29 and 57 of its 250 school buildings, with as many as 40 percent of students attending charters by 2017.

PSU reports that schools across the nation continue to be closed despite research that shows that closing schools does not improve test scores or graduation rates. Students who are participating in the Journey for Justice campaign are calling for a national moratorium on all school closings, turnarounds, and phase-outs.

“I just want the School District of Philadelphia to know that shutting down schools will not help us. I want them to stop trying to turn around schools and close schools, and actually think of the people they hurt,” Duncan said.

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Comments (5)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 22, 2012 8:12 pm

What do we want? 'stop trying to turn around schools.'

When do we want it? now!

Doesn't have much of a ring to it, does it?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 24, 2012 5:10 am

What they and all of us want is for ed deformers to stop experimenting on low income brown and black children with their failed corporate ideas, which completely disenfranchise those communities from decision making in what happens to their children's education.

We know what works -- fair funding and access to wrap around services to address poverty, but those making the decisions are predominantly older whites and do not want to provide the funding necessary to make this a reality for low income children of color.

It is not an accident that corporate ed deform is in full swing now, just as the US school population is increasingly low income, brown and black.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 24, 2012 9:59 am

What we want is an end to the ridiculousness of the past decade which has been imposed upon school districts by corporate raiders and politicians who seek to profit off of our schoolchildren.

We want public schools to be run publicly for the public interest. We do not want public schools turned into self serving private businesses paid for with public tax dollars. We do not want privatizers to drive public school decision-making from their back rooms and secret deals with politicians.

We want schools that meet the needs of students and their communities. We do not want schools that meet the profit motives of the privatizers and outside entrepreneurs who descend upon our school district from afar for their own agendas -- such as the Public School Partnership.

We want the SRC, and our mayor to stop marginalizing the public and stop operating our schools by privatizers who circumvent the public to serve themselves. We want Governor Corbett to stop starving our public for his political Agenda.

We want the Boston Consulting Group to go home where they belong and stop putting their ridiculous ideology out as some sort of expertise. They have none and people with their eyes open and brains in their heads know it. The plan which they put out clearly shows how little they know about education.

We want real educators to lead our schools and school districts who are selfless servants of the children, their parents, their communities and the public good.

We want standardized tests to be used for the right reasons and an end to the "test and punish" mentality of high stakes testing. We want a credible system of student assessment that informs instruction and measures student growth from year to year. We want schools to stop gaming the testing system and operating as test preparation factories.

We want Dr. William Hite to lead our schools not the BCG, Mr. Knudsen, Scott Gordon, Jeremy Nowak, or Mark Gleason who are all servants of themselves.

We want Dr. Hite to have complete freedom to run sour schools for the interests of the children and their communities. We do not want him forced to implement the BCG plan which is nothing but a privatization plan where the BCG will themselves capitalize.

We want Dr. Hite to lead his own reorganization planning with real input from all stakeholders, including teachers, done in an inclusive, collegial and dynamic manner.

We do not want a privatization plan rammed down our throats while those in power pretend to be engaging the public. We do not want decisions made in the dark of the night and then rolled out to us at SRC meetings. We want everything put out for public scrutiny and an opportunity to comment well before it is decided upon.

We want public schools to be public schools and we want them run well and ethically.

That is what "We the people" want.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 24, 2012 12:36 pm

That about covers it. Thank you.

Submitted by MBA to M'Ed mom (not verified) on September 27, 2012 10:24 pm

love this!!!

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