By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Over the loud protest of hundreds of parents and teachers, the School Reform Commission voted to close 23 Philadelphia public schools (see related story). The list is slightly shorter than what was recommended by Superintendent William Hite (see related story). The Commission spared four schools; two more face a vote later. But no one views the vote as a victory.

A capacity crowd listened through hours of testimony, pleading with the Commission for a one-year moratorium on closing schools, then rose to their feet as the Commission voted to shut down one-tenth of the district’s schools.

Commission Chairman Pedro Ramos said the exceptionally large number of closures was a result of years of inaction as schools emptied.

“People use this phrase ‘kicking the can down the road.’ I didn’t know what that meant till I got on the SRC and saw the massive wall of cans that had been kicked down the road to this point.”

Ramos said the savings — something less than the originally budgeted $24 million — will stabilize school district finances, allowing it to focus on improving the 220 schools still open.

Ramos said he understood the frustration. “To find ourselves with this big a gap under these circumstances, it was unfair to everybody.”

Ramos says the next step is to make the transition a smooth one.

“The responsibility now shifts to make sure everything we’ve talked about the past few months gets done.”

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