School Choice’s Hand In Gentrifying Urban Areas

How will it affect our children?

While it’s not spoken of in mainstream media the way something like Trump’s wall is, gentrification is more commonly discussed than ever before. While it’s still overshadowed by other issues, people are becoming more knowledgeable.

One reason for the talk of gentrification increasing is the rising poverty numbers. Even suburban poverty is growing, and it’s now more prevalent than urban poverty. According to an infographic by Ohio University, suburban poverty has risen 65 percent while city poverty has risen 32.5 percent since 2003.

Of course, gentrification typically has to do with urban developments, but it seems that people are finally opening their eyes. One public arena in which gentrification needs to be discussed is the ever-evolving methodology around school choice. While some aspects of it were supposed to cure the education problems in low-income communities, it seems to have done the opposite.

Poverty, Race, and Public Education

In lower-income areas, the quality of public education is often compromised. A large part of this is due to the lack of public funding in poor areas, as reported by U.S. News early last year. Very often, this will affect communities of color.

Across the country, there are examples of African American communities receiving inadequate resources for education. It even led to a lawsuit against the state of Mississippi, when it was recognized that those enrolled at the highest-performing public schools were primarily white students, while those with overwhelmingly black populations were rated very poorly for their low educational standards. Poverty and race are so often interconnected that racial inequality continues due to these same factors.

School choice laws have been posed by proponents to be solutions to the problem of low-quality education. However, when it comes to many poor communities, it hasn’t actually helped the issue; the communities and the public schools themselves aren’t actually being improved. Rather, school choice laws have led this issue to simply be pushed aside.

Gentrification’s Avoidance of the Problem

All around the United States right now, we are seeing affluent families moving their families and businesses into lower-income areas. What this has unfortunately done is gentrified these communities, meaning it’s priced the original residents out of their homes and disrupted their ways of life. Rather than help the issues poverty poses, it simply pushes them somewhere else.

For instance, single parents are commonly known to live under the poverty line. Though they have several options for government help in housing, gentrification leaves less room for that help to be found in those communities. It takes up space, so to speak.

It’s also worth noting that overwhelmingly, the affluent families moving into these areas are white. The problem with this is that communities of color are so often the ones being affected, which means racial inequality continues the way it has been. At the very least, growth toward equality is stunted, and communities of color remain poorer for the most part.

The impacts of gentrification extend beyond educational opportunities — they can even affect the physical well-being of our youth, particularly in minority communities. Without access to affordable, healthy housing due to gentrification, children are exposed to a variety of negative health effects. With 37 percent of our children having one or more health conditions, being displaced can potentially exacerbate existing medical concerns.

The Alternative to School Choice

As the public becomes more and more aware of the issue of gentrification, there are efforts to combat it. Discussions about it are common, and it wouldn’t be hard to find a popular song, podcast, or even a mention of the issue in a television show (“Broad City,” for instance had a scene at a Whole Foods in a broken neighborhood and made slight nods toward the fact that gentrification was a factor). The public school system is often a conversation point in these situations.

Celebrities like LeBron James have used their resources to improve public education in at-risk communities. If more altruists were to take from his example, they would see the benefits of improving bad school systems for a community’s sake, rather than leaving the problem elsewhere. If we are able to improve public education with the proper funding and the necessary structural changes, we would be building the future of impoverished communities in positive ways rather than shrugging the problems off.

Nobody wants to be pressured into leaving their home, and school choice and gentrification tend to pave the way for that to happen. It’s necessary that lawmakers and affluent families have a solid understanding of how they may be taking the voice and power away from a community who desperately needs that to survive. If those communities were shown empathy and given help to improve themselves rather than be overrun, we would be a step closer to eliminating inequality and giving the relevant communities a chance at better lives.

How has school choice and gentrification affected you or someone you know? What do you propose we do about it? Let us know in the comments below!

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