How Gentrification and Rising Rents Affect Educational Opportunity
By Mark Naison (December 16, 2015)
It is tempting to think with the crack epidemic having passed and violence levels down in most, but not all, inner city and poor communities, we have a precious moment of opportunity to rebuild public schools in those areas, but there is another kind of destabilization taking place, less dramatic, but almost as devastating, in the form of gentrification and rising rents. As investors have discovered neighborhoods they once avoided, hundreds of thousands of families are finding themselves priced out of rental units, forced to double and triple up with other families, take in boarders, or move out of the city entirely. Children living in communities where rent rises far exceed incomes not only have to move on multiple occasions, they are often tense, sleep deprived, and/or fearful of physical or sexual violence that can come from living in crowded conditions with strangers.
The impact on schools is enormous. Not only are there thousands of students who move from school to school or have irregular attendance, there are countless others who come to school tense, fearful, needy and unable to concentrate.
So widespread is this problem that one group of school leaders- largely, but not entirely concentrated in charter schools- has decided that mass suspensions and expulsions of students who create problems is the only way to create a positive atmosphere for learning. But that approach only destabilizes schools which try to serve every student.
The bottom line, there can be no serious progress in achieving education equity without stabilizing the housing market and providing decent shelter for low income families.
And the entire education reform movement based on school closings and charters and test based accountability is destined to not only fail, but make conditions worse.