On Tuesday, concerned parents, students, and activists marched into Philadelphia City Council chambers to hear testimony pertaining to the proposed closing of 37 Philadelphia schools (already now down to 29 after much protest). Close to 200 protestors packed the room and heckled plans to close neighborhood schools. Protestors waved signs with messaging that opposed closings and shouted, “You’re killing legacies” and “Where’s the money?”
The hearing, with 56 listed witnesses, lasted most of the day and occasionally boiled over in anger.
A common theme in many of the witness testimonies was the idea of small children traveling long distances to schools in unsafe neighborhoods. Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. said he had walked some of the routes that children would have to traverse to get to their new schools and found them dangerous. “Quite frankly, I’m a grown man, and it scares me,” Jones said. “In some cases, we had to cross major thoroughfares that are as wide as rivers.”
Fight for Philly demanded a moratorium on school closings during their testimonies. Member, Sylana Cristopher spoke passionately about the negative effects the closings would have on her own children. “I do not want my children to be uprooted from their school and placed into an overcrowded school that provides no extra academic support,” she said.
Council then heard from Fight for Philly’s Anne Gemmell, who said “School closings hurt our communities – our families, our kids, our property values, our communities, and more. Cutting middle class jobs and replacing them with low wage, dead-end jobs hurt the households reliant on public education, therefore hurting our schools too.” She went on to further say, “our school district and many around the state are in a state-created crisis exacerbated by the choices Governor Corbett has made. . . we all had to sacrifice while oil and gas companies and other wealthy companies get financial favors.”
The School Reform Commission will hold public school closing hearings Feb. 21, 22, and 23, and is scheduled to vote on the plan March 7.
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