The Argument for Closing Low-Enrollment Schools is Wrong, Advocates Say
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The Argument for Closing Low-Enrollment Schools is Wrong, Advocates Say

TAYA GRAHAM: This is Taya Graham reporting
for the Real News Network in Baltimore City, Maryland. Another round of school closures raises the
question: What is the future of public education in Baltimore? CROWD: Hands off our schools now! TAYA GRAHAM: The concerns outside Baltimore’s
school headquarters were familiar. Students and parents protesting a proposal
that would shutter another seven schools. MS. WYNN: Now, this is the second merge I’ve been
in, and it’s the same thing, and we, like she said, we need the community- they need
they need to come to the community and see what the community has to say. TAYA GRAHAM: Among them, William Pinderhughes,
Cold Stream Park Elementary, Friendship Academy of Engineering & Technology, and the Knowledge
and Success Academy. The closures are part of a plan to revitalize
Baltimore’s aging school buildings. A state study called the Jacobs Report found
some 85 percent of the city’s schools are in poor or very poor shape. The school system’s 21st century plan of 2010
aimed to renovate or close some two dozen schools. A move school officials say is the result
of a decline in the city’s student population, and a disproportionate number of the schools
with low enrollment that were driving up costs. BILL FURGUSON: We have, by far, the most number
of schools with 350 or less students across the state. When you look at Baltimore City, I think we’re
at 183 programs, somewhere around 15 to 20 percent of those programs are small schools
with 350 or less students. Other jurisdictions don’t have that challenge. TAYA GRAHAM: But for parents and students
who attended, there was a different story. Speaker 5: Baltimore City Public School System’s
answer is to close, scuttle the data and disrupt the student body. Unfortunately, it is more of the same from
a system itself that is overwhelmed, underperformed, and in need of change. TAYA GRAHAM: For students, the intimacy of
smaller classes was a benefit. KIESHA WEGNER: I love the school that I attend
and this is why. I’m in foster care, and the staff helped me
get a winter coat and they gave me food. Being a foster child is hard because I don’t
feel like a normal kid. Here at Independence, they make me feel welcome
and also normal. Another reason why I love my school would
be because it’s not a large environment. TAYA GRAHAM: And the relationships they had
built with teachers and classmates, invaluable. SEAN DAVIS: When I first came to Independence,
I felt very welcome with this small size. I’m the type of student whereas though I need
my one-on-one help, so if Independence gets shut down, I don’t know what people like me
would do with the one-on-one help. TAYA GRAHAM: And for the parents, there were
questions. Why is Sandtown-Winchester, the neighborhood
where Freddie Gray was arrested, being targeted a second time in nearly a decade for a school
closure? TIASHA HURREL: Our community need more help,
and that stuff’s taken away from ourself, put into our community. That’s why there’s so much violence, that’s
why so many fighting and different crime, that’s why in our community, it’s a crime
rate, because nobody shows that they care. TAYA GRAHAM: And why isn’t the community being
included in the process? REV. C.D. WITHERSPOON: It’s the first thing they did
after that uprising, was to remodel Western District Police Station. That to us is an insult, particularly the
way that Freddie Gray died, and then the second they want to do is now to propose a school
closing of William Pinderhughes, and we find that to be unacceptable, we find it to be
a part of the culture of that investment that proliferates this city, and urban communities,
as opposed to it not happening in Roland Park, Guilford and Mt. Winans, and then the more
affluent neighborhoods, but we’re gonna show the entire city that poor and working class
people can fight back. TAYA GRAHAM: At a school board meeting, school
officials had little to say. Towson University education professor, Jessica
Shiller, says the analysis that low-enrollment schools need to be closed doesn’t consider
it the positive impacts of educational institutions. JESSICA SHILLER: Now the city’s also citing
the fact that the schools are under-enrolled, the ones that they’re closing, and these are
small schools, and we know, and I personally have done a lot of research over the years
on small schools in particular, and small schools really benefit low-income kids the
most because of the personal relationships they’re able to create between to teacher
and student, that has a tremendous effect on their learning and their academic achievement,
and in terms of costs, the city has said small schools cost a lot of money, and they do cost
more money. What they also do though, in the end, is graduate
more students. So the cost is actually outweighed by the
gains that students make later on in terms of graduation. They don’t have to remediate as much, they
don’t have to deal with students dropping out and explaining that on their roles and
actually, and setting up alternative programs for students that can’t make it through. So in the end, it’s actually not saving them
a whole lot of money. TAYA GRAHAM: Or the effect of forcing students
to change schools, particularly in areas afflicted with entrenched poverty and violence. We asked for comment, and they gave us this
written statement: “For now, school board officials say the final vote on the closures
will be held Dec. 19.” Until then, parents and students say they
will make their case that closing a school is more than a numbers game, a decision that
strikes at the heart of an already vulnerable community. REV. C.D. WITHERSPOON: You shouldn’t be trying to close
down schools. To us, that’s a contradiction. We are going to lead this discussion in relationship
to our communities, and no outsiders would do that but us. TAYA GRAHAM: This is Taya Graham and Steven
Janis reporting for the Real News Network in Baltimore City, Maryland.


  • Ben Benson

    This is real systemic racism. All these closures of school on black communities because of their lack in funding and low grades. If you close these schools, how can these kids improve on their lives. Education really helps people on improving their career and their lives. The government is taking these kids' future away.

  • Yuri muckraker

    gotta cut education to pay for imperial wars in Syria and elsewhere and fund arms to Israel and Saudi Arabia. what part of that don't you lefties get that this is good? lol ohh I kid this is horrendous and pity we have a magic money tree for imperialism but nothing for health care, education and affordable housing. what is wrong with us?

  • Marcell Mitchell

    Even thou I wasn't there i honestly don't want the school close cause I Ben there since a youngin first school I enrolled at for real but hopefully we can make a change and they won't close it down not for me but for the people that's in 2nd or 3 grade I'm in 8th right now

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