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 with old-growth pecan, huisache, and pink bougainvillea shading the neighborhoods of a much earlier Texas. While the smell of tortillas and pinto beans compete with the racing Tex-Mex of children on bicycles, leaving a distinct echo on the streets.
The story of thousands of schoolchildren without a library and books should be front-page news. 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 also-corporatized San Antonio Current, stuffed with sex ads, has the interest but not 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, diabetic, and least educated in the country.
While the SAISD superintendent, Roberto Durón lives in the King William, a historically-zoned district outside the public schools he manages.
While the dropout rate remains at 50%.
photo credits: Travis Elementary School library, by Michelle Jimenez Reyes