Mar 08 2013
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Though supporters of public education staged a massive rally Thursday at school system headquarters in the city and more than a dozen people were arrested on disorderly conduct charges, hours later officials voted to close 23 schools.
The School Reform Commission spared only four schools after hearing emotional pleas from among the hundreds of people who packed the commission meeting room and an overflow space immediately after the rally.
“This was a difficult vote, but it focused on our goal to provide safe, high-quality seats while being fiscally responsible,” commission Chairman Pedro Ramos said in a statement afterward.
Officials contended the cash-strapped system couldn’t afford to keep open the 27 buildings, more than 10 percent of the district’s schools. Many of them are under-enrolled and in poor condition. But opponents said the move would irreparably damage dozens of neighborhoods and further fuel a student exodus from the district.
At the rally, the main street in front of the building had to be closed amid chants of “Children first!” and “Fix schools, don’t close them.” American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten was among those arrested, according to Philadelphia teachers union chief Jerry Jordan.
During the meeting afterward, City Councilwoman Cindy Bass, who had four schools in her district on the closure list, implored school officials to call for a moratorium while local and state leaders work out alternatives.
“What’s about to happen will have a catastrophic effect on public education in Philadelphia,” Bass said before the vote. “This doesn’t have to happen. … There are so many other options.”
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/news/crime/article/23-Philly-schools-to-close-some-arrested-at-rally-4334921.php#ixzz2Mxn4Sm1s