Students rally against planned Philly school closings

Philadelphia students dance to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" outside School District headquarters to protest a plan to close 37 schools.
Philadelphia students dance to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" outside School District headquarters to protest a plan to close 37 schools. (RON TARVER / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 17, 2013

The music began and the zombies lurched to life, moving together to the strains of Michael Jackson's "Thriller." Behind them, students held up signs: "RIP Philly's Schools."

Dozens of youths - members of the organizing group Philadelphia Student Union - gathered outside the Philadelphia School District's headquarters on North Broad Street Tuesday to protest a plan to close 37 city schools in June.

The zombies danced for a few minutes, then collapsed in a heap.

"We represent the students affected by the closing plan," Benjamin Franklin High School sophomore Hausim Talbot said later. "Our hopes would be dead."

District officials have said that if they do not shut schools, they will run out of cash to operate. They estimate the closings would save about $28 million, though that does not include transition and start-up costs for the next school year.

Talbot, 15, reiterated a call for a moratorium on school closings. The Philadelphia Student Union is part of Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools, which has developed an alternative plan for keeping schools open. That plan relies largely on successful lobbying for huge increases in state aid.

South Philadelphia High senior Chris Riley said he understood the district says it is in bad shape.

"But if this happens, it's a destroyed future," Riley said. "If you don't have education, you can't get a job."

District officials have said closings would let them funnel more resources into surviving schools, but the students were skeptical.

Amijah Townsend, her mouth darkened by red makeup, said priorities needed to be shifted.

"There is money to be used," said Townsend, 16. "It's in the state budget, but it's not being prioritized for students."


Watch the student protest at www.philly.com/thriller


Contact Kristen Graham at 215-854-5146, kgraham@phillynews.com or on Twitter @newskag. Read her blog, "Philly School Files," at www.philly.com/schoolfiles.

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