Philadelphia teachers and pupils are facing the closure of 40 schools in a plan to increase privatisation in the US state
Reports of the numbers of schools slated for closure vary. While one report talks of 40 closures next year and 64 by 2017, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers says it has a list of 80 schools which the state government plans to close. Members of the union have been demonstrating and enlisting support from parents and local communities to save their schools and stop the wholesale transfer of pupils to so-called charter schools - essentially schools which have been privatised. Not only that but many teachers will be sacked - with potentially devastating effects on local communities.
The developments in Philadephia are completely in line with the agenda promoted by groups like the Gates foundation and the Walton (Walmart) foundation - to run down public education and turn schools over to corporations. The schools - which will be predominately for children from the poorest and minority communities will have a dumbed down curriculum, staffed often by unqualified people such as those from Teach for America and subjected to the kind of mindless testing which is causing an uproar amongst teachers and parents across the US as the moment. Meanwhile teachers will be subjected to endless denigration and insecurity on the basis of test scores - as they are in New York and Los Angeles where individual teachers are splashed across the media if their pupils' results in the educationally worthless tests are low for any reason.
The Obama administration, despite a more friendly rhetoric than that of George Bush, is promoting the same agenda through its so-called Race to the Top programme - which sees school districts bidding for funds on the basis of how many schools they privatise and how many public school teachers they sack. Part of the same agenda are the massive cuts which are hitting schools all over the USA.
As is so often the case, the US is leading the way in the scope of its neo-liberal reform of education - seeing education as competition or a 'race' - rather than a means to develop in children the critical thinking skills they need to be part of the struggle for a better and more socially just world.