The Real Reason Closing Bad Schools Is Risky

by Lane Wright, editor at Education Post, a nonprofit fostering better conversation for better education.

Not that I expect a lot from the TV news media, ever, but the first paragraph of a recent WCTV story struck a nerve:

A controversial new bill was signed by Gov. Rick Scott last week. The bill, HB 7069, puts failing public schools at risk for getting closed or going charter.

“At risk for getting closed or going charter”? Excuse me?

That line alone tells me reporters covering education don’t have a clue of what they’re talking about, or if they do, they’re so politically entrenched that they consider closing a school that’s been failing for three years in a row a “risk.”

In my experience, only the teachers union, or those who carry their water, would consider “going charter” a risk for students who’ve been failed year after year after year.

What about the risk to the kids for staying in a school that clearly can’t meet their needs? Think about the long-term impact of that! That’s the real risk. It puts the ability for these kids to go to college, or start a career after graduating at risk. It risks the students not graduating at all. Keeping these failing schools open risks social stigma and generational poverty that many kids will never be able to shake without a better education.

Closing a failing school or bringing in a successful charter is not a risk. It’s an opportunity.

I appreciate that Rich Templin spoke up in defense of one of these schools at risk. He’s a parent and I’m all for parent voice. But that doesn’t mean he’s right.

It also doesn’t mean he’s acting in the best interest of kids. The article fails to mention that Templin is not only a card-carrying union member, but an officer: The Florida AFL-CIO Legislative and Political Director.

Templin said, “Hartsfield is an incredible school and my children learn and grow there,” and that “We should be encouraging schools like this and helping them get better, not shutting them down.”

What Mr. Templin may be missing is that bringing in new management (i.e., a public charter school) is in an effort to help kids. Shutting the school down means kids can go to a school that is more likely to meet the needs for all the students there.

Templin says it’s a great school and that the grade isn’t an accurate reflection of the school.

Based on what, Mr. Templin? Seriously. Maybe your kids are doing well there, but two-thirds of the students at that school couldn’t read on grade level in 2016, and only half could pass their math test. Academic performance aside, the majority of students are not even making enough progress to catch up.

This kind of thing is happening year to year. Somebody help me understand how getting these kids out of that situation is a risk? Or maybe a better question, who’s really at risk if these perpetually failing schools close. I’ll tell you one thing for sure, it’s not the students.

What do you think?

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