TRENDS: What About Schools Gentrification Passes By?
There's a big public high school in the middle of downtown Park Slope, one of the most gentrified parts of Brooklyn. Outside on the street, it's all Ugg boots and strollers and fleece and "didn't I see you down at the Inauguration?"
Inside the building, however, the kids are mostly black and brown. They come from other, less affluent parts of the borough. They throng in noisy teenage groups outside the school before and after class, and then go home. It's a totally different world.
This is just the most recent example I've seen of a phenomenon that defies the conventional wisdom, which is that schools necessarily all gentrify along with their neighborhoods.
To be sure, many do. The elementary school down the hill is filled to the brim with the children of white, college-educated parents who dominate the neighborhood. But it seems like at least one or two schools in gentrifying neighborhoods don't get lifted up by the arrival of new parents.
Gentrification isn't all good, to be sure, but getting left out isn't all good either. These schools often lose neighborhood kids whose parents move away, and the funding that goes along with it. They start getting more kids from outside the neighborhood -- overflow kids with fewer neighborhood connections (and parents who can attend event and support kids). Poverty funding goes down but it's not immediately replaced by enrichment or special program dollars. It seems like they're in an eddy.
The point of all this is to note that neighborhood gentrification isn't monolithic, nor necessarily a bad thing. It's certainly not a rare thing. But very little attention seems to get paid to helping schools figure out how to deal with changes in student demographics, parent expectations, and funding streams they may experience. Making schools reinvent the wheel each time seems la shame. Ditto for new parents who gentrify a neighborhood and sometimes have heartbreakingly frustrated experiences negotiating the neighborhood schools.