We see it time and again in our low-income/high minority, inner cities all across the country: public schools, the glue that holds neighborhoods together, are shuttered or flipped to charters that pick and choose.
But not so in mostly wealthy, mostly White, suburban America. I live in Hunterdon County, NJ, one of America's wealthiest counties. About 15 minutes down the road from me is the tiny, gorgeously bucolic, rural, Delaware River town of Stockton. With a population of only 516, the median household income is $93,049, it's 96.5% White, and the median house value is $384,200.
With only 50 students, Stockton Borough School is New Jersey's oldest and smallest school, and the community doesn't want it to close. But because of declining enrollment, it's not exactly cost-effective to keep it open. But, after a packed community forum, former Stockton Borough Board of Education member, David L. Pasicznyk, wrote a letter to the school district:
"As you have undoubtedly noticed at the recent meeting at the Stockton Firehouse, where approximately 100 supporters turned out, the school is the glue that holds our community together. To have that many supporters (over 20-percent of the borough's population) show up at a mid-week evening meeting should be an indicator of the value that we, young and old, place on the school."
Board President Dan Seiter told the audience Monday night that the board had heard the community's wish that the school remain open...
Superintendent Lou Muenker will work to create a committee made up of parents, residents of the entire district, teachers, staff and board members to look at ways to increase enrollment at the school, as well as make recommendations on the best use of the facility in the future. (emphasis mine)Don't get me wrong; I'm happy that the school will remain open at least another year. Hunterdon County has excellent schools, and I'm sure Stockton Borough School is one of them. I'm happy the school board is fulfilling the will of the people who want the very best for their children—and who are paying the bills.
School closings—no matter where they are—are disruptive. But, if you live in wealthy, White America, you stand a better chance of succeeding in keeping your neighborhood school open than if you are poor, Brown and live in a large, urban center.
How many thousands of parents, students and community members all across this country have packed urban board of ed meetings, fighting to keep their neighborhood schools open? Fighting to prevent the destruction of their communities? Fighting against privatization? Fighting for their democratic right to determine how their tax dollars are spent, while those in charge turn a deaf ear because they know what children need—not their parents? How many parents, students and concerned citizens in cities all across this country have marched in the streets against the destruction of public education in their neighborhoods?
Money and skin color speak louder than words in America. Money and skin color open doors of opportunity in every area of life, and it starts with education. If you are wealthy, suburban and White, you simply have more say in how your children are educated. This is the great Civil Rights conundrum that education 'reformers'—many of whom are people of color—have wrought upon the very communities they are trying to 'help'.