Dealing with Decline
Why are urban districts having such a rough time? Details vary from city to city. In some, families are abandoning the city because of a rising crime rate, a weak job market, or housing prices that are out of reach. Elsewhere, public perceptions about the quality of city schools and competition from private and charter schools are cutting into enrollment. State funding may be inadequate, and with declining enrollments, per-pupil state aid is falling. In any given city, some—or all—of these factors are at work.
The Hardest Choice
Closing a school, or schools, is one of the most emotionally charged issues a district can face. In so many communities, schools hold much more than learning opportunities. They hold memories and milestones, prominence and perspective. Tenuous as it is, schools hold life, and shutting one down snuffs out the vitality of a neighborhood.
Courting the Middle Class
What can schools do to keep parents from going private, or moving to the suburbs? Once as revered as mom and apple pie, the public school brand has crashed and burned spectacularly since the 1970s, when the general public and most parents believed their children’s schools were better than when they attended them. To win back middle-class parents, school leaders must seize the agenda and focus the rhetoric on public education’s successes rather than its challenges.