As parents, students and teachers celebrate the start of a new school year, many communities across the country are facing the pain of having their schools permanently closed.
Politicians and policy leaders—Democrats and Republicans alike—support dealing with schools that show poor results on standardized tests by shutting them down.
School closings happen all the time, and the number of students affected is increasing at an alarming rate.
The total number of public schools in the country, which steadily increased throughout the 1980s, 90s, and early 2000s, has been drifting downward since 2007, despite an expandingstudent population. According to data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of students affected by school closures increased from less than 1,000 in 1994 to more than 1,800 in 2011.
Why are all these schools closing?
An Urban, Racial Problem
School closures are most common in urban school districts. As education correspondent Rachel Cohen recently wrote for the American Prospect,
“In urban districts across the United States – from Detroit to Newark to Oakland – communities are experiencing waves of controversial school closures as cash-strapped districts reckon with pinched budgets and changing politics.”
Part of what’s driving closures in these communities, Cohen reports, is the lack of financial resources to address decaying infrastructure. Many urban school buildings were built more than fifty years ago and need extensive repairs or upgrades to accommodate new technology and building requirements. “But the federal government offers virtually no economic assistance to states and local districts trying to shoulder the costs of building repairs,” Cohen explains. States have been withholding funds from these schools since the nation’s economy slid into recession in 2008.
But aging school buildings aren’t the only reason schools are closing. A 2014 report from the civil right groups Journey for Justice Alliance found that incidents of school closures correlated strongly with race. The report declares:”America’s predominantly black and Latino The Racism of School Closures: