The sober-faced Nutter said we’d have buildings, students, and the bare minimum amount of teachers, but that’s it. No frills, no extras.
I am a product of the Philadelphia public school system. I went to Huey, then Harrington for elementary school, Anna Howard Shaw middle school (which is a goner either way, according to the list of school closures distributed earlier this year), and Bartram High School.
I played football, learned to play the bass and joined the band, and honed my skills in the Chess Club. I spent way too many hours in the auto shop at Bartram, which was the unofficial hangout for many of the boys at the time. We worked on each other’s broken down hoopties under the guidance of Mr. Morall, usually when we were supposed to be in other classes. By the time I was a senior, most seniors had their own car, essentially cobbled together from scratch and with hundreds of cannibalized parts—all built, assembled, and painted while Morall yelled at us to get out of his shop and go to class.
When we wax nostalgic about our school days, it’s usually about the friendships formed in clubs, the lifelong bonds forged on the field or basketball court, and the time spent in extracurricular activities. It’s hard to imagine that it could all be over, our schools turned into gray, post-apocalyptic gulags out of a George Orwell novel.
Don’t think that Nutter, school superintendent Dr. William Hite, and the other folks are just blowing smoke, because they aren’t. The sky really is falling—and it’s about to fall on our kids.
Have a look west toward Chicago, where officials just announced the closing of 50 schools for the same budgetary reasons. In a poignant plea during Monday’s rally in Chicago to save the schools, 9-year-old Asean Johnson gave the adults a shot of common sense.
“You should be investing in these schools, not closing them. You should be supporting these schools, not closing them,” Asean said. “We shall not be moved today. We are not going down without a fight.”
Despite little Asean’s pint-sized determination, his school and 49 others won’t be around next semester. In Michigan, the entire Buena Vista School District is closed already, having run out of money in the middle of the school year. Their chances of opening in September are also slim. More than half of Flint, Michigan schools are already permanently closed.
This is real, folks. Austerity measures voted on by GOP state legislatures, combined with budget cuts enacted by those states’ Republican governors have combined with the now-institutionalized greed, lethargy, and apathy shown by school officials to create a perfect storm of educational disaster. Can we really depend on those same governors, and those same legislatures, to now save us from swirling down the drain?
This is a fight for the future of our city, and our children. God help us all if we lose.
(Daryl Gale is the city editor for The Philadelphia Tribune.)
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