So I am deeply saddened by the SRC's decision, but would like friends such as ___ to weigh in on the following question: What were the options for the SRC? Barring higher funding from the State, what other options did they have? I know that school closings don't always lead to the savings promised, but I also don't know what other decisions were available...
There are a few factors being played up simultaneously:
1) Population: Philadelphia used to have 2.1 million people - it is now 1.56 million (yay for gaining population in the last census!). The school population has stayed roughly the same since the 1980s (200,000 students) but where they go to school HAS changed, which brings up factor two:
2) Charter schools have increased enrollment since their beginning in the 1990s. There are now roughly 50,000 students in charter schools, with about 150,000 left in the School District. So, obviously, the District schools are dealing with fewer kids and need fewer teachers and less class size, which brings up factor three:
3) COST. There are a lot of fixed costs for a building due to how they were constructed. If you stop using a classroom, you still have to heat it because that's how the system works. If you lose many classrooms, that is a lot of wasted space, which brings up factor four:
4) Empty seats: People don't remember, but there was an estimate of about 70,000 "empty seats" just a year ago. Now it is closer to 50,000. Where did the extra 20,000 go? Who is calculating? How is it being calculated? No one has answer this question well. If they are using an average class size of 25 or 30 matters quite a bit.
What the District is projecting is also an ideological gambit. They say that another 40,000 will want to got to Charter schools in the next 5 years. OF COURSE THEY WILL! HAVE YOU SEEN THE STATE OF OUR BUILDINGS?
Teachers feel disenfranchised so they will not stay after school to help maintain order. Budgets have been cut for things like nurses, counselors, security guards, etc. This is all causing parents to remove their children from unsafe (or perceived unsafe environments) and place them in the only other option: charter schools.
I am not totally knocking charter schools - there are many that are good. But, if you look at the data, overall they are slightly underperforming their peer District schools in Philadelphia. That should definitely be taken into consideration.
So, in the end I think there needs to be a shift in how we think of these things. The District should be trying REALLY hard not just to cut things, but to find sources of funding. Imagine if the Union and representatives from the District got together to lobby the State government in to giving back the $300 million they removed from the budget last year, then push for more. Then, perhaps we could change legal structures to allow for more creative budgeting on the part of individual administrators to make choices for their schools that would bring back parents and students.
Overall I think the strategy of the SRC and the District has been to disengage (in the vernacular: "pull out") from the public school system and allow another system to take its place that is known for being difficult to navigate and potentially dangerous.
I hope that answers your questions.