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 youth — members of the organizing group Philadelphia Student Union — gathered outside the Philadelphia School Distirct’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 sophomore Hausim Talbot said later. “Our hopes would be dead.”
District officials have said if they don’t shut schools, they will run out of cash to operate. They estimate the closings will save about $28 million, though that figure doesn’t factor in transition and startup 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, a group that’s developed an alternative plan for keeping schools open.
That plan relies largely on successfully lobbying for huge increases in state aid.
South Philadelphia High senior Chris Riley said he understands the district says it’s 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 that closings would allow them to funnel more resources into surviving schools, but the students were skeptical.
Amijah Townsend, her mouth darkened by red makeup, said that 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.”
(My colleague Ron Tarver shot video at the event, which we'll post when it's available.)