The School District, once again, is embarking on a new round of school closures and privatization. This, in spite of clear evidence that these policies have not produced the desired educational results and in the face of broad opposition from the public.
The decision to hand over three elementary schools to charter companies continues its Renaissance charter initiative in spite of evidence that this program has failed to deliver the promised gains. An internal study by the District found that the majority of charter operators had not met their performance goals. At two schools, Bluford and Douglas, the District chose not to renew Universal and Young Scholars, respectively as operators.
The continuation of the Renaissance initiative ignores the verdict parents delivered last Spring when they overwhelmingly voted against charter conversion of Munoz-Marin and Steel Elementary. This time parents will not have a choice. The privatization agenda of the District was also a factor in the recent referendum on the SRC which endorsed a call for abolishing that body in favor of local control.
The Renaissance program also contributes to the District’s financial woes, costing about 4,000 dollars per student in the form of stranded costs.
What about community schools?
While the District’s latest initiative includes what it characterizes as innovative projects, it ignores an alternative that has a strong track record of success. Community schools, schools that seek to address the deficits created by poverty and systemic racism, have boosted graduation rates and dramatically narrowed the racial achievement gap in Cincinnati. New York and Baltimore are both investing heavily in community schools and in our state Lancaster, Allentown and Bethlehem have important initiatives along these lines.
Community schools can be the schools our children deserve…schools with wrap around social services, engaging curriculum, positive school discipline and deep and authentic partnerships with parents, staff, students and the surrounding neighborhood. There is growing support for this idea from parents and educators. Mayoral candidate Jim Kenny has endorsed our call for 25 new community schools over his term. Council President Darryl Clarke is also developing a community schools initiative.
PCAPS first raised the idea of community schools during the fight over school closures three years ago. A well organized, properly funded community schools initiative will bring families back to neighborhood schools, eliminating the need for more closures. And schools that educate the whole child, rather than focus on boosting standardized test scores, will not need to be “turned around.”
We call on the SRC to reject the District’s new closure and charterization plan. We call on Superintendent Hite to include in his next version of his Action Plan and budget proposal a commitment to 25 new community schools. We call on the Governor, City Council and the Mayoral candidates to join in calling for Dr. Hite to go back to the drawing board.