This from the Boston Globe by Milton J. Valencia:
The US Department of Education is investigating a complaint that the Boston school system’s plan to close or merge more than a dozen schools to save money discriminates against black and Latino students and their parents.

The complaint was brought Jan. 25 by the Black Educators’ Alliance of Massachusetts and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law of the Boston Bar Association, alleging a significant disparity in the races of students who would be affected by the school district’s plan. The School Committee approved the plan in December as a way to help plug a $63 million budget gap.

“Historically, disproportionate numbers of school closings have occurred in the predominantly black neighborhoods of the city,’’ said Nora Toney, president of the Black Educators’ Alliance. “The school closings have had a profound impact on our students, families, and community, creating constant disruption, instability, and uncertainty, while failing to provide the quality schools promised by the district.’’

The complaint asks federal authorities to investigate what options the school district had, other than closing schools. In a Feb. 15 letter, the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights told the alliance that, although it was not making judgment at the time, it would look into the matter.

According to the complaint, 46 percent of the students who will be affected by the school closures are black, 44 percent are Latino, and 5 percent are white. In contrast, black students make up 36 percent of the school population, Latinos 41 percent, and white students 13 percent.

Also, the complaint alleges, the school closings affect a disproportionate number of students in low-income neighborhoods such as Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan, compared with neighborhoods serving higher percentages of white students, such as West Roxbury, Roslindale, and Brighton.

Superintendent Carol R. Johnson said yesterday that the plan is the “best chance of success for all 56,000 students in Boston public schools.’’ She said that the schools slated to close were chosen because they have been struggling academically, are in disrepair, or rank among the lowest picked for attendance by families.

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