Poverty, race, and educational opportunity are intertwined. In a report by the National Educational Policy Center, housing is added to the mix. The authors explain the interaction between where we live and the opportunities available to us.
Divided communities have greater inequities in access to quality education and employment. Perceptions of the quality of schools based on the neighborhood income level become the reality. The more divided our communities, the greater the problems become. What can be done to reduce the inequities?
NEPC suggests better policies and community planning by:
- embracing the advantages of diverse communities and schools. The demographics of our country are changing and our children need to learn how to live in a diverse world. Those who do will have an advantage.
- considering how current accountability measures exacerbate segregation and inequality. School choice and school grading policies increase segregation and label schools. A high income area school may earn an “A” grade. If some lower income children enroll, the grade may drop but the instructional quality remains the same.
- addressing implicit bias: “be” not “flee” in both urban and suburban contexts. It is no secret that some neighborhoods have better city support than others. Community support services need to work with changing neighborhoods to ensure equity.
Realtors, developers, and local zoning boards need to work together to create balanced and relatively stable residential neighborhoods in terms racial identities, cultural backgrounds, and income levels. All of this may seem idealistic. Overtime, however, residential patterns do change. Flight from the cities to the suburbs, for example, is changing to urban gentrification.
Gainesville is experiencing these changes. There is an article in today’s paper called: Residents seek more safety measures as area becomes more attractive. A low-income neighborhood is getting a face lift. Better lighting, sidewalks, and traffic control are needed. The proximity to the University of Florida is attracting more racial and economic diversity. This is the type of community that NEPC envisions. Will our community be up to the challenge? Will the local leaders work with the local school to make it shine? Planning for diversity is our future.