Will the Feds Get Involved in Philly School Closures?

Hot on the heels of Monday’s announcement of a lawsuit challenging the proposed closing of Philadelphia schools—closings brought about because of massive budget deficits—comes news that the feds are investigating similar closures in New York City.

The U.S. Department of Education will investigate a claim that the Bloomberg administration’s plan to close 26 low-performing public schools this year discriminates against minority and special-education students.

The complaint made by a New York City parent is one of dozens filed recently by opponents of school closures, who are targeting the practice in cities nationwide, including Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit. Schools chosen for closure generally have higher proportions of minority, impoverished and special-education students than others.

It is unclear how far the complaint will go. The U.S. DOE’s Office for Civil Rights has 35 open cases alleging similar types of discrimination and hasn’t substantiated any of the complaints. Some complaints have been dismissed because of insufficient evidence, though a spokesman couldn’t say how many.

Why this might not go anywhere: The Obama Administration has tried to place itself on the side of school reformers—and even if they’re not quite as enamored of, say, vouchers to send kids to private schools as Republicans, it’s hard to see the administration wanting to punish big cities for taking bold actions to shake up the moribund education systems. [Wall Street Journal]