After $400 million worth of cuts to state funding over the past two fiscal years, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted last night to close 23 of the city’s 247 schools. The vote was met with much outcry, including a protest that involved hundreds of demonstrators shouting “Shame on you!” chants, ending in 19 arrests.
Officials saved four schools from closing at the last minute, but if all 27 had been closed down, the district would have saved an estimated $24.5 million per year — it’s unclear how much will be saved by closing the 23 schools. The district is still facing an uphill financial battle in the long term: Projections show Philadelphia faces a nearly $1.4 billion deficit over the next five years.
The New York Times explains part of the reason why the system is inclined to be closing some schools: Parents are getting choices.
Philadelphia is one of a number of major cities that have been closing schools because of falling enrollment, poor academic performance and budget deficits. New York, Chicago and Washington have closed dozens of schools in the last decade and have recently published plans to shutter dozens more.
Public school enrollments are falling as more students migrate to charter schools. In Philadelphia, the proportion of students attending charter schools jumped to 23 percent in the 2011-12 school year from 12 percent in 2004-5, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Today, about 55,000 students are enrolled in Philadelphia charter schools, up from 20,000 ten years ago.