Gentrification “usually stops at the schoolhouse door,” writes Nikole Hannah-Jones on Grist. When middle-class people move into low-income neighborhoods, few send their children to struggling local schools.
Some gentrifiers have no children. Those who do usually send them to private schools or use public schools “choice” programs “to attend wealthier, whiter schools outside of the neighborhood.”
Schools in gentrifying Chicago neighborhoods did not improve, concludes a 2013 study by Micere Keels, a University of Chicago professor. Urban educators hope upper-income families will “come into these neighborhoods and invest in the neighborhood schools and revitalize both the neighborhoods and schools,” she said. Instead, advantaged families opted out, often choosing public schools with admissions criteria.
In gentrifying neighborhoods, local schools may lose enrollment and funding, which leads to layoffs and program cuts. That happened in three gentrified Chicago neighborhoods, according to a 2005 report by Catalyst Chicago.
“Districts funnel inordinate resources into Cadillac programs, such as magnets and other choice schools, in order to entice middle-class parents,” writes Hannah-Jones. “But school districts have finite resources, so to provide elite opportunities at some schools, other schools — those that have the greatest need — get less.”