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In San Antonio, Six Inner-City Schools Close and the Media Fiddles

brenaudgonzalezs Icon Posted by Barbara Renaud Gonzalez

April 24th, 2008

Last week, Michelle Jimenez Reyes, mother of a Travis Elementary School student in San Antonio’s inner-city schools, discovered that her daughter’s school library was closed – with eight weeks to go before the end of the schoolyear.

It was only the latest shocker since the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) announced they were shuttering six inner-city schools – citing decreasing enrollment. The city of San Antonio is one of the largest cities in Texas, and with over a million residents, is not losing population. It’s building new schools – in the farthest reaches of its spidery suburbs as its citizens move out in search of jobs and cheap housing, leaving behind the oldest and most valuable inner-city housing stock remaining in Texas.

Since the surprising announcement from the SAISD in February, Jimenez Reyes has organized a concerted protest of parents and activists, called Keep Travis Open (www.keeptravisopen.com), a defiant, grassroots, challenge to the closing of historic, blue mosaic-tiled schools in some of the oldest neighborhoods in Texas.

The story of thousands of schoolchildren without a library and books should be front-page news. Since when did sending inner-city children to bigger schools become a positive educational step in a city concerned with high dropout rates? The story of established neighborhood schools – with acceptable school rankings – closing their doors for lack of enrollment should be a reason for investigative stories by the media. The community should be outraged, right?

Not in San Antonio. Who’s going to tell this story? Here, one Hearst chain newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News is blitzing its ads on the front page as it seeks even more profits. Corporations, according to Jimenez Reyes, are the real power behind the closing of the six schools in a balance-the-budget bottom-line mentality as the developers seek prime inner-city real estate.

Accordingly, the newspaper’s editorial legitimized the SAISD’s budget-tightening decision as a positive move toward staunching the city’s high dropout rate.

On the other side of the street, the alternative paper, the San Antonio Current stuffed with sex ads, doesn’t have the time to follow the story.

As the television stations cover the story in their usual spurts and spins, sentimental entertainment for the masses in a city that is one of the poorest and least educated in the country.

Michelle De LaRosa, reporter for the San Antonio Express-News, interviewed the Travis Elementary School parents after the library’s closing. According to Reyes Jimenez, she took notes but didn’t ask questions. She seemed unresponsive, and she told the parents she wasn’t sure she could do a story. When the parents around her brought up the SAEN’s corporate interests, she got defensive.

“What do you want me to do? I also work for a corporation.”

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