School Closings: Financial or Educational Benefits? PLUS: Education in media, city planning, & more

This week’s News Notes from The Education Town Hall:
School Closings=Benefits?
Can Urban Planning Transform Education?
How is the Media Covering Education?

The Education Town Hall is broadcast Thursdays at 11 a.m. (Eastern) on We Act Radio.

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School Closings = Benefits?

Chicago closed 50 of its public schools, while Washington, DC closed 13. The promise in both cases was financial savings and educational benefits in remaining schools.

Matthew Blake, for In These Times, reports that few such benefits seem likely in Chicago:

In pushing through the closures of 50 neighborhood Chicago schools this summer over the vociferous objections of the teachers union and community groups, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his handpicked school board argued that the shutdowns would make up for budget shortages and direct more resources to other neighborhood schools.

But a week into the school year, the remaining schools appear to be receiving no immediate financial benefits from the closings.

The school year started on Monday for all 403,000 Chicago Public Schools students. Media coverage has largely focused on the “safe passage” routes that the district drew up to help the 12,500 students affected by the closings walk to their new schools. The closings prompted widespread concern that displaced students would have to cross gang lines to arrive at their new classrooms, exposing them to violence. But after five school days, there have been no reported violent incidents involving students traveling to their new schools.

Matthew Blake is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. He has written for the Chicago Journal, Washington Monthly, Washington Independent and The Nation, among other publications.

Summertime enrollment figures suggest that Washington, DC, schools will be similarly bereft of any promised benefits. See Emma Brown’s June Washington Post story and Martin Austermuhle’s August WAMU report:

Of 17 designated receiving schools, eight have filled less than one-third of their available seats for next year, according to school system documents. Only five have filled more than half their projected seats. Citywide, traditional schools have filled half of their projected seats for next year.
Martin Austermule for WAMU


Education in Urban Planning and in Media

Tinka Rogic, architect and K-12 researcher, reports on innovative learning environments within city planning:

Urban Planning is rarely seen as a remedy for the state of the education system. However, thoughtful community design that integrates schools in new ways can lead to successful learning environments and vibrant communities.

…A non‐traditional way of integrating education with the community and avoiding the isolated school campus is “Mixed‐Use Education,” which physically and programmatically combines schools with non‐ educational uses. Mixed‐use urban planning that combines entertainment, commercial, and residential uses has proven successful in creating more vibrant communities, but rarely have educational facilities been included in the mix. This is partly the result of zoning requirements in some cities, and partly due to traditional thinking that schools shouldn’t mix with other community functions. However, there is compelling evidence that cities, educators, planners, and communities should review their zoning laws and their thinking to promote Mixed‐Use Education….

Tinka Rogic is an architect and K-12 researcher with Perkins+Will, Los Angeles. She studies innovative learning environments with a focus on city planning, learning sciences and new technologies.

See the story, Using Mixed-Use Education to Build Communities,” at Planetizen.


Education in the Media

Martin Walsh of Education Week is launching a new column on how the media is covering education. Walsh is a contributing writer to Education Week who specialized in legal issues in education for more than 19 years.

Meanwhile, Jessica Christy continues to offer an interesting range of education links for Greater Greater Education in her “Morning Bell” notes.

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