In Chicago, Illinois, Newark, New Jersey, and New Orleans, Louisiana, school closures have been a major subject of debate over the past two years.
During the month of May in 2014, civil rights organizers in these three American cities filed federal complaints with the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). These organizers demanded the government’s action in helping to stop the rampant discrimination going on in their cities’ public school systems.
Around this time, a domino affect of school closures and consolidations were occurring in Chicago, Newark, and New Orleans neighborhoods that are predominantly black and Hispanic. These closures cause urban students to have to be bused on much longer commutes on their way to school.
The civil rights organizers in these three U.S. cities who filed the 2014 federal complaints with the DOE strongly believe in children’s basic right to attend school in their own neighborhoods. This is a right that is consistently delivered to suburban students who live on the outskirts of these three urban cities.
Out of the three city school districts where federal complaints were filed, only the Newark school district has organized an arrangement with federal officials over the issue of the widespread school closures. However, according to Truthout Online News, the agreement between Newark’s public school district and the U.S. government is inadequate.
“To the frustration of civil rights advocates, the deal does not include an agreement for accountability between the schools and the taxpaying families who say their children were systemically discriminated against as the closures swept through their neighborhoods,” wrote Truthout reporter Mike Ludwig.
The mass closure of public schools in urban cities with sizable minority populations causes other adversities, which are more serious than students having to travel longer distances to school every day.
The children who attend these schools that close down usually end up having to enroll in charter schools instead. In many cases, charter schools have been proven to be consistently ineffective from the standpoint of academic quality in cities across the country.
It never looks good when private companies financially benefit from the closure of public education institutions in financially distressed communities. This sends the message that the duty to deliver basic rights and education equality is not as important as turning a profit.