By Chloe Latham Sikes & Terrance L. Green (click here for the PDF)
Gentrification is a worldwide phenomenon that is deeply rooted in settler colonialism, anti-Black racism, and capitalism (Green, Sikes, Horne, Germain & Castro, in press). It is often characterized by the influx of new investments in residential housing, business, and commercial real estate that results in the displacement of low-income, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and Pacific Islander People and the erasure of their culture. Given the historic connection between neighborhoods and local education systems, gentrification can also appear as school gentrification (Posey-Maddox, 2014).
School gentrification can take different forms when schools are decoupled from their local neighborhood enrollment and demographics. Some experience waves of new investments in resources, teachers, and facilities (Posey-Maddox, 2014). School investments can also slow to a trickle as resources are redirected through intentional disinvestment (Green, Germain, Castro, Sikes, Horne, Sánchez, 2020). A key factor in the trajectory of schools’ gentrification is the increasing disconnection between local school assignments and their surrounding neighborhoods by enabling gentrifying families to reside and invest in the neighborhood without similar investments in the local schools (Green et al., 2020; Pearman & Swain, 2017).
Changes in investments often correspond with racial and socioeconomic changes in school enrollment. Gentrifying families tend to be White, upper-middle-class newcomers to historically Black and Brown neighborhoods. As school gentrification takes place, schools are caught in the tension between rapid demographic change and remaining reflections of the neighborhoods that had existed previously. This leads to several policy problems and opportunities for intervention.
Policy suggestions arise from a multi-city study of school gentrification. The study builds upon scholarship focused on how city gentrification impacts local schools (Posey-Maddox, 2014), how parental school choice influence school-based programs and resource investments (Posey-Maddox, 2014; Roda, 2020), and how the landscape of school choice decouples schools and housing, which have traditionally been closely knit features of neighborhoods (Pearman & Swain, 2017).
Our research has identified three major policy problems. Gentrification:
1. Destabilizes Black and Latinx school enrollment by creating a mismatch between local neighborhoods and gentrifying school demographics (i.e., rapid increase of White residents in the neighborhood with a school that traditionally serves Black and/or Latinx families);
2. Compromises Title I funding in schools that experience a rapid influx of more affluent families enrolling; and
3. Undermines Black and Brown students’ social and emotional well-being and mental health through cultural and historical erasure, and displacement from school programs, opportunities, and their familiar neighborhoods.
These problems present real challenges to efforts to promote racial justice in school districts.
State and local policymakers can:
1. Develop school district-wide racially conscious plans to sustain equitable enrollment, resources, program options, staffing, and school-parent engagement strategies, especially in gentrifying schools that primarily serve historically marginalized students.
2. Commit to supporting affordable housing for Black and other racially minoritized teachers to remain in their districts. This has been achieved through city partnerships with housing authorities and local school districts as a targeted housing strategy.
3. Develop “right to return” and “right to stay” education and housing policies for racially marginalized students and families who are being negatively impacted by gentrification.
State and local policymakers and leaders can take action to intervene in school gentrification before schools lose their cultures and their communities. ▀
Chloe Latham Sikes (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Deputy Director of Policy at the Intercultural Development Research Association.
Terrance L. Green (email@example.com) is an Associate Professor in the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin.
Green, T.L., Latham-Sikes, C., Horne, J, Castro, A., Germain, E., & Sanchez, J. (in press). Making waves: Districts’ actions in the flow of School Gentrification. Educational Policy.
Green, T.L., Germain, E., Castro, A., Sanchez, J., & Latham-Sikes, C., Horne, J. (2020). Changing neighborhoods, changing schools: An emerging typology of school changes in a gentrifying district. Urban Education.
Pearman, F. A., & Swain, W. A. (2017). School choice, gentrification, and the variable significance of racial stratification in urban neighborhoods. Sociology of Education, 0038040717710494.
Posey-Maddox, L. (2014). When middle-class parents choose urban schools. University of Chicago Press.
Roda, A. (2020). “Holding the Line”: Investigating How Urban School Leaders’ Respond to Gentrification in New York City Schools. Urban Education. https://doi.org/10.1177/0042085920959137.