This is an excerpt from an excellent article by Jake Blumgart (@jblumgart) over at Next City. The rest of the article is behind the paywall, but Next City really does wonderful work on cities, so please consider subscribing. This article cites my work pretty extensively, and its in-depth look at the response to Philly school closings has real resonance in Camden. Here’s the conclusion:
“YOU HAVE TO MOBILIZE”
In Philadelphia this winter, the school district started another public engagement process. The issue is a proposed universal enrollment program that would allow all children to apply for enrollment at district schools — including selective-admission public, charter and potentially Catholic schools — using a common application. The child would then be assigned to, in theory, the best receiving school based on an algorithm created by whichever private company is brought on to run the program.
Hundreds of attendees crowded a meeting in January. After the school district’s presentation and discussion, the spokesperson for every single table declared they were opposed to the universal enrollment program. The arguments against were legion, but Lisa Haver, a longtime education activist and former district teacher, summed up the opposition succinctly. “Our concern is that we seem to be asked about something that is presented as fait accompli,” she said at the end of the meeting. “The indication is that there are going to be more meetings and our feeling, and it seems like everyone else’s, is why are we doing this? I would love it if we could just take a vote right now and put it to bed. … We’re here, take a vote.”
The school district demurred, and the meetings continue to be scheduled. Haver and her allies plan to be there as the conversation escalates. “You have to mobilize, you have to agitate, you have to protest,” said Hiram Rivera, executive director of the Philadelphia Student Union, a coalition of public school student activists. “Every year, we get more young people out there making their voice heard.”
If you ask Danley, that is exactly the right way to make change. “It’s always a small group,” he said, “until it isn’t.”