While it may save money, closing underperforming schools merely scapegoats the underlying problems with our communities.
As it has done for the last few years, the New York City Department of Education has implemented its criteria for closing its underperforming schools. A few years ago it set its site on closing the Choir Academy of Harlem, which is home to the world famous Boys’ Choir of Harlem. While that school got a reprieve, the 25 slated for closure may not be so lucky.
Recently, the NYC Independent Budget Office released some interesting data on the demographics of the schools slated for closure.
Twelve of the twenty five schools on the proposed list of closures in NYC are elementary and middle schools. The most surprising data about the elementary schools was that was that 72% of the students in these underperforming schools are considered to be ‘low income.’
If income is the problem, then the real issues are at the homes in the communities of these children and not their schools. Closing an underperforming elementary or middle school doesn’t give mommy a new job or turn the lights back on.
Low income families not only depend on local schools to teach and baby sit their children, they also ask schools to feed them. Many of these children are hungry when they come to school and may not have eaten well since they left school the previous day. How can they be asked learn? One malnourished child can be seriously disruptive, imagine a classroom with ten such children. Why not address this on a community level?
How much of the poverty, crime and despair are these young children see daily in their homes and communities that they take with them into the classroom? Instead of reflections of the community around them, are these schools the safe havens and sanctuaries that they need to be for these children?
Unlike other children in other neighborhoods, these kids need ‘an escape’ from their environment. In many ways, ‘closing off’ their schools may be better than closing the school. Once closed off maybe then, you can properly address the quality of education that is going on inside.
The quality of educations seems to be the problem among the list of NYC high schools slated for closure in NYC. According to the data, only 25% of the students in these high schools pass the Regents exam. In other words, only 25% of the students are truly getting the basic level high school education.
Apparently, two students in New York City can receive their high school diplomas from different school but one is less likely to be adequately prepared for college or for gainful employment. What happens to this student? How discouraged is he and his family when the best education that was made available to them is basically worthless in the world that they live in?
This issue is just not happening in NYC, its happening nationwide. The city of Detroit is preparing to vote on a proposal to close 70 of its schools. Similar proposals are also slated to be voted on in Atlanta, St. Louis, Dallas and Kansas City.
Closing underperforming schools is like putting a band aid on a bullet would. Closing the schools and displacing the kids merely scatters their issues among the rest of the city. Most importantly, the deeper issue caused by underperforming don’t go away, they just resurface in other areas.
But maybe it is meant to be that way. Maybe these are the kids that are meant to become the criminals who will be the reason for local governments to spend tax payer money on more police and building more prisons. Maybe these kids are meant to augment the population of adults who are dependant on the government for their basic needs.
Why is does the cycle of poverty have to continue? Well capitalism is like a pyramid. The foundation of poverty on the bottom supports the limited prosperity on the top. The bottom can get as large as it wants but there is only so much room in the middle or at the top. Thus the cycle of poverty has to continue for the system to sustain itself.
Sadly the American way is to make poor people ‘prove’ that they want out of a life of poverty. Our only hope is to seek out the best quality education possible for our children. However, that could get you arrested.