My name is Rich Liuzzi, and I am a member of Alexander Wilson Elementary School community.
Wilson was one of 24 schools that the district closed in 2013.
But these schools are not alone, as research by the Journey for Justice Alliance bears out.
The same year our schools were closed, Chicago closed 49 schools, adding to their total of 111 school closures since 2001.
In Newark, 13 schools have been closed since 2009, with upwards of 11 more expected.
Memphis: 13 schools since 2013.
Birmingham: 17 since 2008.
Boston: 18 since 2008.
Cleveland: 22 since 2010.
St Louis: 22 since 2009, and 42 since 2003.
Milwaukee: 26 since 2005.
Kansas City: 26 closed in 2010.
Baltimore: 26 since 2007, with upwards of 26 more expected.
Houston: 32 since 2003.
DC: 39 since 2008.
Pittsburgh: 41 since 2004.
Columbus: 45 since 2005.
New York: 140 schools since 2002.
Detroit: 93 schools since 2009, 204 since 2000, and upwards of 28 more expected.
and New Orleans: every school except 5 since 2003.
I cite these numbers to make the necessary point that what happened to Wilson and the other Philadelphia schools closed by this district is not an isolated phenomenon.
Rather, it’s part of a larger trend sweeping across our country and driven by corporate education reformers.
It’s a strategy that primarily impacts communities of color.
It’s an approach that peddles in promises of providing parents and families with better options and choices while denying them the opportunity to have a say in decisions that affect the lives of their children or to exercise community control of their schools.
And the effects of these closures – and the school turnarounds that hand our public schools over to private hands – are pain, loss, trauma, and the fracturing of entire communities.
So I would like to close with a simple question in the form of a demand:
The students, families, and educators of the city of Philadelphia deserve to know what schools the district and the SRC plan to close or turnaround this year, and we deserve to know right now.
We don’t need nor deserve another bombshell dropped on us like last October when we learned that Cooke, Huey, and Wister were on the chopping block, and that the democratic right to vote on such a decision was taken away from the students and families of those communities.
We deserve enough time to organize in opposition to this movement to take our schools out of and away from our communities.
In the 1970s, when Ella Baker was asked to comment on the movement for community control of schools, she said the following:
“First, there’s a prerequisite: the recognition on the part of the established powers that people have a right to participate in the decisions that affect their lives…[and] there’s a corollary to this prerequisite: the citizens themselves must be conscious of the fact that this is their right…
I believe that people, when informed about the things they are concerned with, will find a way to react. Now, whether their reactions are the most desirable at a given stage depends, to a large extent, upon whether the people who are in the controlling seat are open enough to permit people to react according to the way they see the situation.”
So, Commissioners, Dr. Hite:
What schools will you be closing or turning around this year?
And are you prepared to recognize our right to participate in the decisions that affect our lives?