In this country we turn a blind eye to a lot of the challenges Black children face. Unfortunately, many of these challenges begin in failing schools primarily located in lower income communities.
In Atlanta, there are a lot of questions and conversations about the state of public education for Black children and school closures . 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 and how it impacts Black children, especially Black children in low performing schools, many located in low-income communities.
I’ve listened to 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.
As Atlanta communities are changing so are home values. Prices are naturally going up which attracts a different tax bracket to many inner-city communities. According to Patrick Gillespie of CNNMoney, there are some pros and cons of gentrification we should look at more closely.
When I worked in family engagement, the schools I supported saw an increase in the number of transfer students. Some students transferred within the district two to three times. Many Atlanta citizens are concerned that gentrification targets low-income communities which are already battling schools failing Black children.
In some parts of Atlanta, residents celebrate the pros of gentrification aka revitalization. They believe low-income communities can become economically sound providing better education, business opportunities, safe, clean, and healthy environments. On the flip side, Black residents in communities negatively affected by gentrification have stated they are being pushed out of their communities. Investors have offered deals to purchase homes and move Black families to a different part of the metro area. Even Black seniors, many raising children in Atlanta schools, are being bought out and encouraged to move into assisted living senior facilities.
Towards the end of this decade, more Atlanta schools began to see a decline in Black students in areas impacted by gentrification. The lack of true affordable housing now in inner cities is causing a crisis. When I served in Southwest Atlanta schools, some students were called called the “transient children,” a reference to children whose families moved often due to housing. If Black children aren’t in school regularly, their academic success is negatively impacted. Gentrification implodes lower income communities and displaces Black children furthering educational gaps.
Many Black residents in Atlanta see school closings as the first step of gentrification. The late Dr. Pearlie Dove stated in a community meeting that, “closing schools is the first step of gentrification!” Long-time Atlanta education advocates are split about the fight for school choice and the battle for improved traditional public schools. The message I continue to drive is traditional public schools and charter schools are both public schools. We need to focus on Black children receiving a quality education at ANY school they attend.
Another resident mentioned, “It’s not just erasing of the schools Black history, but our Black children!” Some Black parents fear that as schools are closing and reopening as charter schools or partner schools, they won’t be accessible to them or address the needs of their children. In several community meetings and on social media, parents have expressed their frustration and hurt that their concerns are not being addressed.
There are better ways for Atlanta’s educational and city leadership to improve communication about our schools and the importance of a quality education. A free, fair and equitable education is what should be provided to each child; many Black children only get a free education!
Improving failing schools is a lot of work; it’s not just leadership. Black children are failed in schools in several major ways including:
- Poor implementation of family engagement practices
- Lack of connection of Black students
- Absence of parent strategies to increase academic performance data
- Biased discipline practices
Gentrification and school closings affect children and communities who have often times been profiled, targeted, labeled, cheated, displaced, overlooked, disregarded and 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? Hopefully it won’t be Black children.
Only time will tell.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.