The brouhaha surrounding the closing of high schools after years of appalling underperformance and fiscal irresponsibility is hard to understand. I have specific reference now to Benton Harbor High School in Michigan, but the situation exists in other places across the nation as well (“The End for a Michigan City’s High School? ‘It Would Kill the Whole Community,’“The New York Times, Jun. 16).
According to the state, only three percent of third graders read at grade level and fewer than three high school juniors have been identified college-ready in each of the last five years. Moreover, the system is $18.4 million in debt. In light of this dismal data, why is there resistance? You’d think that stakeholders would welcome the opportunity to give students a better education at other schools.
Similar reactions have been seen elsewhere. For example, Jamaica High School in the New York City system was once the largest high school in the country. But persistent violence and a graduation rate of about 50 percent finally led the New York City Department of Education to decide to close it. The news angered students, parents, the community, and alumni. But because all high schools to date have been overwhelmingly black, racism has been raised as the real reason.
Yet so many black parents are on the wait list to enroll their children in charter schools. Why wouldn’t they keep their own children in the same failing schools if racism were indeed the reason?
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