By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The US Department of Education is investigating a complaint of racial discrimination in the Philadelphia School District’s ongoing downsizing.

The Pennsylvania public school advocate group “Action United” filed the complaint after, the group said, its analysis of the plan showed that the eight schools shut down just prior to the current school year disproportionately served African-American, low income, and disabled students.

Action United spokeswoman Quanisha Smith (fourth from left in photo) says African-American students make up 56 percent of the district’s students but 81 percent of those in the schools that were closed.

“These recommended closures will create educational deserts in African-American communities,” she said today.

Action United has asked for a moratorium on the school district’s next round of 37 school closures (see related story).  That call has been taken up by Philadelphia city councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who says the district’s plan is so riddled with inconsistencies that it invited charges of discrimination:

“Nobody can figure out any other reason why they’re doing it, so naturally (the minorities) say, ‘We’re being picked upon.’ ”

The school district did not immediately comment on the issue.

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