School Closings In Massachusetts
Parents throughout the state are voicing their opinions about many of the proposed school closings in Massachusetts. Many cities are trying to cure the deficits in their budgets by closing and consolidating schools. Some districts have cut back on books, supplies, activities, and administrative staff to try to cut the deficit and avoid closure. The push is on to turn some schools into charter schools that would receive the same funding as public schools but are privately run. Governor Patrick of Massachusetts recently signed a bill to up the cap on charter schools.
- Several schools are slated to close in Boston Area. As part of the “Redesign and Reinvest” plan in the Boston area, the East Zone Early Learning Center, Lee Academy Pilot School, and Roger Clap Elementary in Dorchester; Ralph Waldo Emerson Elementary in Roxbury; and three high schools in Hyde Park are slated to close. In addition, the Patrick F. Gavin Middle School in South Boston is closing and will be replaced by an in-district charter school, the UP Academy. Twelve other public schools were also considered as underperforming and have been scheduled for a turnaround.
- Parents and teachers were encouraged to attend a community meeting and voice their opinions about Boston’s school closings. When they arrived at the meeting, which was organized by the superintendent of Boston Public Schools (BPS), they were told to save their comments for smaller “breakout” groups that would meet at the end of the main presentation. When parents tried to make comments, they were told to be quiet. When one teacher attempted to read her prepared statement, she was told that as a staff member she could not make comments. When the presentation was concluded, parents again asked to stay in a large group, but they were sent to breakout groups with a moderator in each one that was geared to stifle any opposition.
- In the main presentation, the superintendent of BPS explained to parents how the decision to close schools was formed. She told parents that because of the budget deficit, charter schools were being promoted. In fact, six charter schools are slated to open in 2011. She further told the parents that her staff had discussed the school closures with 150 parents, and their input was used to help decide the closures. However, when one parent asked for a show of hands for those that had been contacted by the superintendent’s staff, only one hand was raised. The superintendent also stated that the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System test results were also relied on in deciding which schools to close.
- School closures are slated in several areas throughout the state. Other cities like Brockton are anticipating drastic cuts to their budget, while Arlington may have to lay off 21 teachers and Hingham may lay off 33. Somerville cut field trips and extracurricular activities, book purchases, and began using substitute teachers to fill vacancies. In Taunton two elementary schools are slated for closure and a redistricting of the school system.
- A complaint has been filed with the U.S. Department of Education alleging discrimination. The Black Educators’ Alliance of Massachusetts has lodged a complaint to the U.S. Department of Education that the plans Massachusetts has to close or consolidate schools is discriminatory to Black and Latino students. They allege that there are more schools closing in neighborhoods that are Black and Latino than there are in white neighborhoods. They also allege that it impacts not only the students, but their families and community, as well. It causes instability, constant disruption, and uncertainty. In the schools that are slated for closure, 46 percent of the students are black, 44 percent are Latino, and only five percent are white. The students are also from low-income neighborhoods. The complaint is being evaluated by the Department.
- Charter schools will provide more flexibility for training a future workforce. Governor Patrick believes that by having more charter schools run by the private sector, it will provide the flexibility needed to train a workforce. He believes the present system does not prepare them for success or life, and feels the charter schools will leave them better prepared to meet the needs of big business.