Monday, December 29, 2014

Zombies dance to protest school closings

The music began, and the zombies lurched to life, moving together to the strains of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Behind them, students held up signs: “RIP Philly’s Schools.”

Zombies dance to protest school closings

Students protest school closings Video: Students protest school closings

The music began, and the zombies lurched to life, moving together to the strains of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Behind them, students held up signs: “RIP Philly’s Schools.”

Dozens of youth — members of the organizing group Philadelphia Student Union — gathered outside the Philadelphia School Distirct’s headquarters on North Broad Street Tuesday to protest a plan to close 37 city schools in June.

The zombies danced for a few minutes, then collapsed in a heap.

“We represent the students affected by the closing plan,” Benjamin Franklin High sophomore Hausim Talbot said later. “Our hopes would be dead.”

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District officials have said if they don’t shut schools, they will run out of cash to operate. They estimate the closings will save about $28 million, though that figure doesn’t factor in transition and startup costs for the next school year.

Talbot, 15, reiterated a call for a moratorium on school closings. The Philadelphia Student Union is part of Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools, a group that’s developed an alternative plan for keeping schools open.

That plan relies largely on successfully lobbying for huge increases in state aid.
South Philadelphia High senior Chris Riley said he understands the district says it’s in bad shape.

“But if this happens, it’s a destroyed future,” Riley said. “If you don’t have education, you can’t get a job.”

District officials have said that closings would allow them to funnel more resources into surviving schools, but the students were skeptical.

Amijah Townsend, her mouth darkened by red makeup, said that priorities needed to be shifted.

“There is money to be used,” said Townsend, 16. “It’s in the state budget, but it’s not being prioritized for students.”

(My colleague Ron Tarver shot video at the event, which we'll post when it's available.)

About this blog

Inquirer reporter Kristen Graham writes the Philly School Files blog, where she covers education in Philadelphia, both in and out of the classroom.

During the school year, you’ll frequently find her hosting live chats about the district on Philly.com.

Please do pass along the scoop about what’s going on at your Philadelphia public school; Kristen welcomes tips, story ideas and witty banter.


Kristen Graham Inquirer Staff Writer
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