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Proposed closings hit Black students most

By Paul Socolar on Jan 10, 2013 06:02 PM

Proposed school closings and relocations will disproportionately affect Black students in the District, based on District data analyzed by the Notebook and displayed below.

About 15,000 students attend the 43 District schools being closed or relocated. Of those, 79 percent are African American. Only 55 percent of the District's students overall are African American.

Nearly three-fourths of these 43 schools being closed or relocated have student populations that are 80 percent or more African American. More than a dozen of the proposed school closings and relocations are in predominantly Black North Philadelphia, where many of the school buildings are both aging and underutilized.

White students are underrepresented among students affected by closings. Only 4 percent of affected students are White, whereas White students represent 14 percent of the District population. White students in the District are concentrated in Northeast Philadelphia, where utilization rates at most schools are high.

Twelve percent of students in the schools being closed are Latino, 2 percent are Asian, and 3 percent are of other ethnicities.

Responding to these findings, District spokesperson Fernando Gallard said, “The vast majority of schools identified by the facilities master plan recommendations have low utilization -- that’s one of the reasons schools are identified. The majority of students in schools with low utilization are African American; therefore it follows that African Americans are a majority of the students affected."

Data about school capacity and utilization show that 20 of 43 schools being closed or relocated are more than half-empty (less than 50 percent utilization). Another seven are less than 60 percent utilized. Eight of the 43 schools are more than three-fourths full.

In October, the activist group Action United filed a federal civil rights complaint alleging that last year's school closings were racially discriminatory.


Statistical note: The Notebook excluded Carnell annex from this tally because separate data for students in the annex were not available.


Data compiled by Kofi Biney

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Comments (52)

Submitted by haveIntegrity (not verified) on January 10, 2013 7:28 pm
This should be a wake-up call to parents of "Black students" (since the writer chose to use that term) to step up their game and support their children. Needless to say, I am a black parent too! Attendances in these schools are so low that it makes sense to do what SDP is planning to do. Running schools like that is a shame to "common sense" I think we need to go back to the time when school is not made mandatory for all students. It should be free but only those that WANT to be there should be admitted. So BLACK parents, stop playing "the victim game!" Send your children to school daily and REALLY support them. What goes around comes around. Payday may be around the corner
Submitted by KilgoreTrout (not verified) on January 11, 2013 7:04 am
Make no mistake about it. Impoverished black neighborhood schools are under attack. The SRC has done everything they could to make public schools less safe, and therefore less attractive than charters. Parents put their kids in charters, even though the education charter school kids receive is much less rigorous, just because of safety concerns. When enough kids are fooled into leaving their schools, bingo! They close the school! Great article. This has nothing to do with saving money or improving education, this is all about busting one of the state's largest unions.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 11, 2013 3:52 pm
Spot on KilgoreTrout. Ask any parent why they send their child to a charter and they say safety, uniforms, and discpline. It's never about the education, matter of fact many parents like their children's teachers and want to remain in their communities. If the public school district is underfunded and thus has fewer supplies, resources, and, less extracurricular actives then sure an alternative appears better. There are many articles out about parents "scrambling" to find an appropriate school each Fall and it's causing anxiety for them and their children. We are supposed to be progressing but we didn't have these problems during 40's 50's and 60's. "School Choice" is a euphamism as well as a misnomer.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on January 11, 2013 7:59 pm
One solution to school safety is to allow principals to boot out the students with behavior problems, and only allow them back when they get a release from the receiving 'special admit school', certifying that the students have reformed their behaviors. As long as the disruptive children are treated as if they have more rights than their classmates (who come to school to earn), then parents will flee to inferior but safer charters. Ask any Philadelphia teacher how much instructional time is wasted dealing with these students. Frankly, I'm sick of disruptive students stealing the education of others, and I'm sick of hearing people, who haven't taught a day in our schools, blame the teachers for poor classroom management.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on January 11, 2013 10:01 pm
Oops- "learn" not "earn"
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 12, 2013 6:11 pm
Yes! Yes! Yes!
Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on January 14, 2013 12:55 am
There's a lot of truth in what you are saying about disruptive students. With some teachers, classroom management is a major issue that really contributes to behavior problems. An example is screaming at students. However, some teachers have great classroom management but they have a student or two who can make the classroom a living hell. I agree that it needs to be easier to kick out these disruptive students to an alternative school.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 11, 2013 9:08 am
And we can assume you never use the term "White?"
Submitted by Ken Derstine on January 10, 2013 7:40 pm
There is a new article in The American Prospect that shows this discrimination is a national issue brought on by corporate reform. Fighting Education Shock Therapy With tools from 1964, community activists are pushing the White House to turn federal education policy around. I think this legal fight against discrimination must be combined with a fight against the underfunding of urban public schools. We must be careful this does not become just fight over ever shrinking resources as politicians starve the public schools and corporate reformers try to privatize them.
Submitted by linda (not verified) on January 10, 2013 8:07 pm
Maybe I missed it, aren't most of the citizens in the city are Black like myself? Therefore it stands to reason that most of the kids in the SDP system are also Black like myself? The are charter schools [and while I do not know the numbers] I am willing to bet that most of the students are Black like myself. The main thing is economics. The "working poor" or those of us in the 47% can not always afford the strain of a private education from grades k-12. Hence, we look for what is supposed to be available within the public school system. It is my hope that all of this response to school closings does not lose its fervor when it is time for parent teacher conferences, back to school nights, team games, school plays and PTA meetings. Consistancy is protest and interest is key. If we [myself included] the Black community continue to pay taxes and do not show up for all events then we get what we asked for........people with power who use it to do whatever they want, however they want.
Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on January 11, 2013 3:27 pm
linda, A little over 43% of Philadelphia's population is Black: I'm an outsider, not a native of Philadelphia. What I see is that there is a perception that North Philadelphia is a huge slum infested with crime and poverty. Yes, there is a lot of crime and poverty in North Philadelphia. At the same time, the majority of people in North Philadelphia are working people. People see what they see on the news and they underestimate what's in North Philly. They think that North Philadelphia is a "throwaway part of the city." North Philly is the way it is in many ways because of industrial businesses, white flight, and to a lesser extent the flight of middle class Blacks. Now that there is growing gentrification in the city and North Philly is becoming more attractive, people will fight to keep their neighborhoods and the institutions that support the neighborhoods. And I hope that people continue to stand up and defend their neighborhoods. EGS
Submitted by linda (not verified) on January 11, 2013 6:36 pm
Thanks for the reference...Blacks still make of the majority of the city's population...something I always notice when I go for jury duty..... I agree about the changes in North Philly. I also agree about the mass exodus of the middle class Blacks from the city as a whole. I hope gentrification continues, as that will be the main factor in schooling, business, property ownership and a better life for the city overall. Still, schools be they private, public, Catholic or in the SDP are to an extent a business. Sadly those in power take the funds, spend foolishly and then blame everyone else for the state of "missed" education opportunities by the regular tax payers. As a teacher this is very frustrating in that Iament all the things that I would like to go back to doing in class with kids instead of the massive production line process to which I have to subscribe.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 10, 2013 9:37 pm
There is a plan for all these closing school building in North Philly just like they closed the swimming pools in North Philly at Foster Pool and Rhodes School leaving the children with anything to do just to name a few . What is really happening who is the people that wants North Philly back.If the people can check the data of children that in every elementary school in the Northeast that will see that the schools is not at full capacity just like the schools in North Philly but they are not closing those building. Our so call leaders like our Mayor who stands in front of the cameras and said that his for our kids and this is how he shows it by closing the school in the black communities were they needs the help the most and we voted him in office for a second time may GOD help us, again what is the real reason for these schools of six to close in the heart of North Philly. We won't no today but we will find out tomorrow what the plan is I hope for the children that these elementary schools won't close
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 10, 2013 9:11 pm
Case in point why schools like Strawberry Mansion should close.
Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on January 14, 2013 12:56 am
You make some good points about the impact of school closings on North Philadelphia. Might I suggest that you edit your writing before posting for grammar and spelling. Just a thought....
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on January 10, 2013 10:49 pm
I do not think this a race thing. the Black dominated SRC has allowed lots and lots of Charters to open so the buildings in North Philadelphia are underutilized. Charters are the answer right?? So what is the compliant. The Community is adequately served by charters which I am sure listens to the community provided what they are saying is consistent with the business plan. Two duplicate school systems is not in the business plan of anyone.
Submitted by tom-104 on January 10, 2013 11:33 pm
Two school systems is exactly what they are creating. The public schools have been systematically underfunded over the last ten years which is why parents find the charters as an escape option. What you will have is children born into low income families will be left behind in inferior public schools. Why do you think schools are being closed only in certain zip codes? Check out this column from Jersey Jazzman on the subject:
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 11, 2013 8:04 am
the district has not been underfunded. it has wasted lots of money. that's not the fault of charters. of the 2000 students slated to go to strawberry mansion, 1700 chose to go somewhere else. only 1/3 of them went to a charter. black people closed strawberry mansion. black people empowered with school choice tend to make the right decision. they live in strawberry mansion. they know how bad that school is. the src is right to place parent choice over sustaining teaching union jobs. that's what the people want. power to the people!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 13, 2013 8:19 pm
You can't be serious, the state slashed public educaton funds to the bone ON PURPOSE. Knock it off with the "union jobs," they are very important to employees and to the economy in general. Teachers have families to support. Power to the people means having a decent school in your neighborhood.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 12, 2013 10:26 am
Aah but you're missing the point of WHY so many charters have opened,and mind you at the EXPENSE of traditional public schools. There are 3 main problems as I see it: 1) the charter structure is such that it's funded in large part by the public tax payer but over which we have no say or control. because the SRC (which should have been long gone) does what it wants. 2) We do NOT have 2 duplicate systems, Their idea (goal) s to make it into a charter system. What is one to conclude when more and more schools are closed each year but more and more charters are opening? Others are PROFITING from charters and using our money to do so. It doesn't matter if we have a Democratic or Republican mayor OR if the powers that be are black or white, Everybody has their hand in the pot because there is money to be made. 3) Where does this all leave the student, parent, and teacher especially a PFT teacher? It leaves everyone in a constant state of llmbo, confusion, and uncertainty and we deserve just the opposite. imagine a student coming out of 8th grade having no idea where they will be in the Fall, if THEY will be "accepted" or if their school of choice will evern still be operating?
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on January 13, 2013 8:05 pm
Yes that is the point. They do not want two systems. They want a Charter system but they recognize that they will need a place to accept all the kids thrown out of Charter schools. So you will get a Charter system which has to better because it is privately run. Right? And a couple of district schools to act as holding pens for all the kids thrown out of the Charters. That why all the bad data is in the public system and they can point to what a success Charter schools have been.
Submitted by @ynrp3 (not verified) on January 10, 2013 10:21 pm
The data presented in this analysis is flawed. One example of this is with the Philadelphia Military Academy @ Leeds. It notes the capacity of the facility at 1,126 students, pointing out that enrollment sits at 248 with a 22% utilization rate. There is no footnote communicating that Leeds Middle School, which serves grades 7-8, is also at this location and the middle school enrollment is not provided. That information would demonstrate that the facility's utilization rate is higher than 22% as included in the report. As I think about it more, how was the facility capacity determined? Is the fact that administrative offices are also located in a portion of this building being taken into consideration, thus reducing the capacity and, in effect, resulting in a higher utilization rate? Just curious...
Submitted by Paul Socolar on January 10, 2013 11:00 pm

Hi - you are correct about the error with Leeds. That is the Notebook's error. The District supplied all the raw numbers, such as the building capacity and the enrollment for each school, but we calculated the % utilization and neglected to count the middle school's population in the figures for Leeds.

You imply that there are other errors ... please let us know so we can correct the chart.

Facility capacity is determined by the School District. Whether they accounted for the floor in Leeds that is taken up by offices is not clear.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 11, 2013 1:48 am
I assume Lamberton numbers are also off on utilization since it is a K-12 school. According to the School District, there are about 550 K-8 students. The school is still "underutilized" but there are about 750 students in the building, not 200.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 12, 2013 10:20 am
I understand that some elementary schools will become k-4 in Sept. and after that the students will feed into Leeds.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 11, 2013 12:52 am
Interesting commentary on this topic: Obama's Race To The Top Drives Nationwide Wave of School Closings, Teacher Firings "A nationwide epidemic of school closings and teacher firings has been underway for some time. It's concentrated chiefly in poor and minority communities, and the teachers let go are often experienced and committed classroom instructors, and likely to live in and near the communities they serve, and disproportionately black. It's not an accident, or a reflection of changing demographics, or more educational choices suddenly becoming available to families in those areas. It's not due to greedy unionized teachers or the invisible hand of the marketplace or well-intentioned educational policies somehow gone awry. The current wave of school closings is latest result of bipartisan educational policies which began with No Child Left Behind in 2001, and have kicked into overdrive under the Obama administration's Race To The Top."
Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on January 11, 2013 5:30 pm
Very interesting article. Thank you for posting.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 12, 2013 10:10 am
I agree with this 100% and have been saying so for awhile now. President Obama has been largely silent on education, mainly focusing on college loans, community colleges, and Pre K. He is admittedly pro charter and we haven't heard much because there was an election at hand. " Public school advocates should feel betrayed as we voted for him in droves (even those of us who knew his position). Arne Duncan is a slick talker and uses all the buzz words to diffuse the actual plan . That link should be shared.
Submitted by Leidy Teacher (not verified) on January 11, 2013 5:36 am
That 54% utilization number for Leidy is a joke. We have 2 Special Education programs here - LSS and HI. 5 classrooms are in use for that, with very small class sizes. We do have some empty class-rooms but not enough to hold another 270 students!
Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on January 11, 2013 6:11 am
This is the situation in many schools. There are also schools where areas are inaccessible / unusable because they are damaged (bad roof / water damage, contaminated, etc.) While some schools are obviously "underutilized" (Strawberry Mansion, Germantown, Univ City, Shaw, etc.), the schools could be used for dual purposes. Have City Council and State Rep's ever been approached to locate their offices in schools? How about community organizations? The later could keep the schools open later. (Parts of the schools would obviously have to be secured.) Other government agencies? Some schools have health centers / clinics. Why not more? I'm not an expert but I'm sure others can come up with dual uses for schools that saves everyone money and provides a viable resource for neighborhoods.
Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on January 11, 2013 1:17 pm

Excellent poiint, Philly Parent and Teacher.   This is exactly what PCAPS is calling for the SRC to do.   A one year moratorium on school closures and an aggressive campaign to develop community schools as an alternative to closures.   Contrast what our District is doing with what the Cincinnatti School District did:

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on January 11, 2013 3:54 pm
It would be an excellent education for City Council members and States Rep's / Senators and the Mayor's staff to work in a School District building that is more than 10 years old. They would see the conditions many staff / students live with on a daily basis. It might also be a savings for community groups to locate offices in schools. Then, both the groups and schools pool resources. As you pointed out, this is not so outside of the box that it is impossible.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 12, 2013 11:31 am
It would be a good idea to forward ANY AND ALL information to City Council right now as they are taking a look at all the closings the SRC has proposed..
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on January 12, 2013 1:45 pm
Philly Parent and Teacher has a good suggestion. It is logical to group, for instance, other City institutions with public schools. Right now we already share after school activities with the Recreation centers. Unfortunately, they are also struggling for funding, and this might entail more painful downsizing. Then again, how would these community organizations differ from the much villainized nonprofits that BCG proposed should run the "Achievement Networks"? Council should've been working on this since the FMP was published, more than a year ago. Might the much needed technical/vocational educational initiatives (as in tax break incentives) be used to cohabitate and rehabilitate these buildings, helping to meet the need to attract more high tech businesses to Philly? These things take time, vision, and not least, the courage to take the risk of change.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on January 12, 2013 7:26 pm
Hi Mr. Whitehorne. I looked up the community schools in Cinncinnati, because I'm also a strong believer in community involvement. The impetus to create these was to justify the $1 million from taxpayers used to repair the schools by providing much needed services to the community (first and foremost to the students) through the school buildings which (as in Philly) were being underutilized. The idea is good, but we do not have the taxpayer money right now or in the short term future, and I think the size of our District's fiscal dilemma is a lot bigger. We do have a caring community, but I do not know if they would be able to foot the bill for what is needed to repair and maintain the buildings. Notably the one coordinator for the procurement of community service providers in the article I read, though maintaining contact with the school board, came from outside the school bureaucracy. It wasn't all that clear in the article also how the businesses obtained income from providing their services to the community which was as poor as many of ours are here. I feel the City's leadership, that would be Council and the Mayor, need to have an overall vision for the future of the City which should include the public schools. Could the City afford to lose the strategic placement of these schools; and if not, what would it take to attract desirable investment that would include keeping the school function in these buildings (again, how about tax incentives)? Wouldn't the proximity of so many institutions of higher learning attract businesses that could benefit from partnerships with the same, bringing more jobs (and wage tax income) with them? Wouldn't these same institutions be interested in improving the City as a place to live and work, not just for singles but for families with children? Couldn't this also be used to improve what the traditional public schools can offer (possible school to work situations) so as to attract students back from the charters and private schools, or even our college students to stay in the City? As one commenter wrote, the situation is pretty dire right now. There is probably not the time to make any other possibilities a reality; however, the sale of these buildings might be delayed with an eye to the future.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on January 12, 2013 7:10 pm
Sorry, got my numbers wrong: the taxpayer bill was $1 billion over 10 years:
Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on January 14, 2013 12:06 am
Here is a comprehensive plan for the city, Philadelphia2035: The Planning Commission website also has information on the 2035 plan:
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on January 14, 2013 9:43 am
EGS thanks for these references. I'll take a look.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on January 14, 2013 9:18 am
So, so far I have looked at the summary of the plan: Not a mention of public schools either in "neighborhoods" or "institutions"... hmmm, guess it was written by single professionals or those who don't have children in the public schools. What a great plan. Interesting numbers about how the City has lost proportionately more jobs than people. Opposite case in the surrounding counties. Gee, go figure.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 13, 2013 8:38 pm
Strawberry Mansion is a very big school (much unutilized space) it used to house a junior and senior HS. I don't remember it being in bad condition either.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 11, 2013 12:22 pm
It might be more informative to sort the figures not by color, but by income. Are the students from poorer homes disproportionately affected? Is the distinction clearer if you look not at color but at resources, and family education? Is there a geographic aspect that could explain the performance of some of the schools? Perhaps there are factors which could be examined that have little to do with color. But so many people are more than eager to use this correlation as their first, last and only point of consideration.
Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on January 11, 2013 3:50 pm
I agree that it's important to look at the correlation of the closings with income. However, race has more bite legally than socioeconomic status. And there is a strong correlation between race and SES.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 11, 2013 1:15 pm
I believe that Paul Kihn is still on staff at McKinsey & Co: Did William Hite bring him in as Deputy Superintendent for the specific purpose of carrying out the school closings? Is he on loan from McKinsey as Hite's hit-man?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 11, 2013 4:35 pm
Submitted by Cuddles (not verified) on January 11, 2013 1:49 pm
Before May 17, 1954 it was called the School House After May 17, 1954 it was called the Public School.
Submitted by Ken Derstine on January 11, 2013 4:47 pm
Chicago public schools are following exactly the same script that the SRC is proposing for school closures in Philadelphia. A commission appointed by the Chicago Superintendent of Schools Barbara Byrd-Bennett has just recommended that NO high schools be closed. Panel: Closing any CPS high schools would pose gang danger to students 
Commission studying district's proposal for shutdowns issues preliminary report
 from the Chicago Tribune 
“The commission studying school closings in Chicago is recommending that no high schools be shut down because doing so would endanger students by forcing them to cross gang boundaries or move to schools where rival gangs hold sway.
 "With gang boundaries sometimes shifting on an almost weekly basis, and barring extreme circumstances, it is simply too risky to ask high-school-age kids to cross gang lines just to travel to and from schools," the Commission on School Utilization wrote in a preliminary report issued Thursday.
 The commission, appointed by Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett to engage the community on the thorny issue of closing schools, won't issue its final report until early March.”
 Read more:
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 12, 2013 10:04 am
The Chicago Teacher's Union represented by their stellar president Karen Lewis had a hand in this.
Submitted by Ken Derstine on January 12, 2013 12:36 pm
I'm not so sure. I neglected to say in my comment that the Commission appointed by the Chicago School Superintendent went off the script. These were obviously selected loyalists from within the Chicago administration. That they went off script shows how shallow the support for closing schools is once the discussion moves beyond the number crunchers and their speadsheets!
Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on January 14, 2013 12:38 am
What I find so disturbing is why are gang lines playing such a big role in these decisions? Why are there so many gangs in these communities? The prevalence of gangs speaks to a dynamic of poverty and a street mentality not present in more middle class neighborhoods. Some students do go to high schools outside of their neighborhood areas. Apparently, the gang issues aren't so bad for these students. Then, there are citywide admission schools like Central and Dobbins. I don't hear about the gang issues with these schools. I teach at the elementary level so the issue of gangs is not present the way it is with high school students. Can someone give more insight into the dynamics of how gangs will affect schools. For example, do gangs affect transportation or walking to and from schools? Do they affect students taking SEPTA, as many students already do? EGS
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on January 30, 2013 9:29 am
Analyses for the lawyers: Are there schools in the District not on the closure list that (with comparable building condition) have the same or lower utilization as those that are? If so, what are their demographics? If these exist, then there is a better case. Racism is not the fault of the PSD. The abandonment and decline of neighborhoods is all too real, but the power to push for change lies not with the PSD, but Council and the Mayor.
Submitted by bob mathews (not verified) on May 14, 2013 1:55 pm
well i think its about how violent blacks are and theay cant blame it on there upbringing all the time plenty of whites have bad childhoods and it seems by far theay are less violent and get locked up. heres one example ..
Submitted by bob mathews (not verified) on May 14, 2013 2:08 pm
n example here

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