Closed for Learning: The Impact of School Closures on Students and Communities

In a 2015 Congressional Briefing, Keron Blair, director of the Alliance to Reclaim our Schools, contrasted reform approaches to schools and banks. “Whereas banks are considered too big to fail and thus are bailed out, public schools are closed instead of receiving additional assistance.” Blair added “that our methods of privatizing public schools are rooted in the belief that Black and Brown people are incapable of governing themselves and thus cannot effectively operate our neighborhood schools.”

Here is the congressional briefing:

Closed for Learning: The Impact of School Closures on Students and Communities

From the Journey for Justice Alliance and the Advancement Project

“[E]ducation is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments… It is the very foundation of good citizenship.”
– Brown v. Board of Ed Opinion (1954)

From the onset, the U.S. public education system has been wrought with challenges. It has never been a perfect system. Yet, for the past 15 years, the education reform movement has exploded — backed by investors and philanthropists that have sought to privatize education by capitalizing on our flawed accountability system and its overreliance on high-stakes testing, high-stakes teacher evaluations, and high-stakes grading of schools. Today, the interests of children of color are being sidelined by the interests of philanthropists, hedge fund owners, and venture capitalists with their sights set on public education dollars and investments in inner-city neighborhoods. The result has been massive takeovers of school districts and school closures across the country, particularly in Black and Brown neighborhoods, which studies have found do not actually improve the academic futures of the displaced students they propose to help.

These mass closures reflect shortsighted and discriminatory state and federal policies rooted in an education reform model that rewards students who test well, have no disabilities or perceived behavioral challenges, do not experience the effects of trauma or poverty, and who can sit still for hours on end causing massive student push-out, particularly of students of color. It is a racist model that fails to take into account the history of communities of color that have survived years of discrimination, segregation, underfunding and marginalization—both inside and outside of schools. By adopting this business competition model wrapped in nice messaging about “school choice,” communities of color are experiencing a new wave of harms in their communities. In 2013 in Chicago, 50 schools were closed. That same year in Philadelphia, 23 schools were closed. In other major cities, like Washington, D.C. and New York City, the same pattern prevails. Without federal and state reforms, this pattern is likely to continue.