Photo via Philly.com
Last year, the city of Philadelphia shuttered 24 public schools due to budget cuts and local policymakers' preference for closing down struggling schools rather than investing the needed resources to help them succeed. The closures impacted thousands of Philly students, primarily those from low-income communities of color.
Youth United for Change (YUC), a local student group and OTL ally, has launched a new campaign to identify some 600 students who went "missing" in the wake of the closures.
"About 10,000 students were displaced by last year's closures, the district said. Most have been accounted for, but 600, whom YUC described as "missing," have not.
District spokesman Fernando Gallard said an analysis indicated the 600 students either left the district, enrolled in private or parochial schools, or dropped out. Dropout numbers, he said, are typically a year behind.
YUC said another major blow has been cuts to the Re-Engagement Center, which provides former students with re-engagement options and links them to services. The center's workforce is down from five full-time staffers in 2011 to one this year, plus a few interns, the district said."
YUC is asking the district to acknowledge the negative impact of the mass school closures and implement better data tracking systems to keep tabs on students as they transfer from closed down schools. Equally important is fully funding the Re-Engagement Center to provide needed supports for those students.
In recent months, advocates and organizers across the state have started calling for Pennsylvania lawmakers to create a statewide fair school funding formula. Districts like Philadelphia that have high concentrations of students living in poverty should receive extra resources to fund the wraparound supports and opportunities that can help students succeed.
Learn more about school closures (and the alternatives!) with the OTL Campaign's series of infographics on school closures.