Will Proposed Atlanta School Closures Open the Door for Further Gentrification?

There’s a lot of questions and conversations about school closures in Atlanta. In order for us to address the growing concern, we must look at what we know about the correlation and connection of school closures to gentrification.

I’ve talked with educators, students, parents, community residents and business owners who are concerned about how gentrification is impacting the education of black, brown and mixed race children.

Here are some things I’ve heard from community members:

  • It’s the reverse of white flight.
  • It’s another social experiment on black, brown and mixed race children.
  • It’s a means for upper class communities to profit off of poverty.
  • It further divides citizens of various cultural, economic and racial backgrounds.

Most people don’t know enough about or understand what gentrification is and how to identify it: Gentrification is the process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class taste.

For example, in Richard Florida’s article on gentrification, he highlights the effects of residents who originally lived in communities that were then gentrified. Here in Atlanta, we can look at English Avenue and Vine City, historic African-American thriving communities, that have fallen from grace due to widespread poverty, homelessness, drugs, prostitution and crime. While this dynamic becomes a loss to communities, it becomes an opportunity for investors to come in and capitalize on foreclosed homes and vacant proprieties at little cost.

According to Patrick Gillespie of CNNMoney, there are some pro’s and con’s of gentrification we should look at more closely.

Many Atlanta citizens are concerned that gentrification targets low-income communities traditionally inhabited by African American, Latino or mixed raced citizens.

In some parts of Atlanta, residents celebrate the pro’s of gentrification aka revitalization. They feel like low-income communities can become economically sound providing better education, business opportunities, safe, clean and healthy environments.

On the flip side, residents in communities effected by gentrification have stated they are being pushed out of their communities. Investors have offered deals to purchase their homes and move them to a different part of the metro area or into senior living facilities. In addition, affordable housing complexes are being closed, remodeled and reopened with a small percentage actually being affordable—about 10 percent of the units—and the rest luxury.

‘Closing Schools Is the First Step of Gentrification’

All of these things effect how children learn and ultimately lead to failing schools and school closures.

The late Dr. Pearlie Dove stated in a community meeting in 2014 that, “closing schools is the first step of gentrification!” Another resident mentioned, “it’s not just the erasing of our schools history, but our culture, successes and legacy!”

Many parents fear that as schools are closing and reopening as charter schools or partner schools, they won’t be accessible to and thus include their children. In several community meetings and on social media, parents have expressed their frustration and hurt that their concerns are not being addressed.

Perspective is key here. Gentrification and school closings effect children and communities who have often times been profiled, targeted, labeled, cheated, displaced, overlooked, disregarded, not fully supported or empowered. We must remember that for every win, someone must fail—and the winner in the case of schools should always be parents and students.

Who will be on the winning or losing end of the stick of gentrification in Atlanta? Only time will tell.


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