Beyond political will : a city-school partnership and a landscape of redevelopment and gentrification
- Urban gentrification is commonly described by scholars as a consequence of market-based community change. Typically in these cases, neighborhoods that may have previously been characterized by deteriorating civic infrastructures and poverty are dramatically changed as renewed interest from largely private investors results in significant shifts in the community -- economically, socially, and culturally. These transitioning communities become home to disparate sets of residents that occupy the same relative geography yet manage to stay socially separate. The tension between older and newer residents is well-documented in the gentrification literature. Older residents are described as lower-income and largely minority populations, while newer residents are often higher income, politically and socially liberal, young, white professionals. Beyond these descriptors of residential divides, sociological accounts of gentrification seldom mention how these shifts affect the community's public institutions and in particular, its schools. In principle, most gentrifiers are assumed to value and support public education. However, new residents, often without school-aged children, have little incentive to be involved in their local schools. As a result, the school community often becomes isolated from the wider community. Even if a lack of interdependence between schools and residential communities is unintentional, over time, schools risk being further marginalized as residents prioritize their own interests. The weakening school and community connections within gentrifying communities demonstrate an inconsistency between what is described by scholars as newer residents' commonly socially liberal values and beliefs about the importance of public education, and their demonstrated detachment from local schools. Furthermore, residents and decision makers often are reluctant to openly acknowledge surrounding race and class tensions that can contribute to the school and residential community divides. Underlying racial and ethnic stereotypes or class prejudices might not be openly expressed or scrutinized by community members, nor might they seem immediately relevant to the policy questions facing local leaders. This dissertation seeks to illuminate and understand the unexpressed ideas that influence how individuals think about local public schools, and further, how these ideas help account for public support for community and school policy initiatives. I build on studies that seek to understand the role of ideas and beliefs in the context of organizational and institutional change. In particular, John Campbell (2004) suggests that a process of idea-sharing and shaping takes place in the background of decision-making arenas, both consciously and unconsciously. In addition, the subsequent tangible policy outcomes that occur are the end result of implicit and explicit negotiations between competing sets of interests, values, beliefs and ideas. My study examines the progression of a city and school partnership in Emeryville, CA, a community struggling with the challenges and opportunities of gentrification. Unlike most other gentrifying communities, city and school district leaders in Emeryville believed that even though there were few connections between them, their respective constituencies could not afford to continue to occupy separate realms of community. If they did, the largely minority school population of students and their families would become further marginalized from the opportunities that came from the community's significant re-growth. In addition, given the positive correlation between property values and local school performance, property owners would also be at financial risk if the schools did not demonstrate higher academic outcomes. District and city leaders proposed a new joint-use school and community facility, the Center of Community Life (CCL), which could simultaneously address complicated issues of community change and educational reform. Given Emeryville's small size and its politically progressive residents, the future of the CCL seemed promising. The emerging development of a strong and diverse city, school, and business partnership provided preliminary evidence of Emeryville's civic support for public education and community building efforts. Beyond this political will however, there were fundamental differences in how residents and school stakeholders perceived the future of the district and the city, and how they might complement one another. The history of the city, its recent changes and accompanying socioeconomic shifts, and community members' perceptions, would come to play a significant role in determining the viability of the city and school partnership and the CCL project. My study involved observations of community and school district public meetings, and interviews with members of Emeryville's residential, business and school communities. I also examined public documents that I collected over a two-year period (2006-2008), including: formal policy documents, local newspaper articles, email listservs, and election campaign literature. My analysis focused on illuminating the beliefs, perceptions, and assumptions held by various local stakeholders about schools, community, and their connections to tangible policy outcomes. The study explains the fate of the CCL by focusing on how the maturation and strategic development of relevant beliefs and values ultimately shaped school and community policy. The competing and often implicit ideas about schools and community influenced the ability of decision-makers to implement policies that met the interests and needs of both the school and residential communities. Furthermore, the layered ideas and beliefs held by individuals about public education, community, and racial and class stereotypes, in turn affected the viability of the CCL. These findings illustrate the complex process of decision-making, and the ways in which background ideas can promote or impede a policy agenda. Accounting for ideas and beliefs that are not necessarily explicit is especially relevant to arenas where topics of race, class, and community often feature politically correct or morally-infused ideological rhetoric, rather than candid or explicit conversation about individual assumptions and priorities. For example, in the case of schools and neighborhood gentrification, school advocates' altruistic rationales of alleviating poverty or empowering disadvantaged youth may sidestep important assumptions about why or how such investments are relevant to the greater community. In addition, within communities holding competing agendas, the background ideas that are most aligned to the dominant community's priorities will most likely result in a particular policy outcome. In communities and districts characterized by changing social and economic contexts, my research suggests that policy advocates who are interested in confronting race and class inequities must make social justice ideals relevant to individual self-interests, particularly when decisions about the public good run counter to the dominant norms and mechanisms of a market economy. This study points to the need for deeper investigation into how background ideas and social, economic, and political contexts influence the place of schools within communities. Especially in the context of gentrifying communities where ideologically supportive residents may have little tangible investment in the public schools, and when influential ideas about race or class are seldom addressed explicitly, public school proponents need to find strategic ways to account for these ideas and bring them into the political foreground. In so doing, advocates may be better able to understand how to encourage policies that move beyond stated values and can tangibly affect schools and communities.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Stanford University, School of Education.
|McLaughlin, Milbrey Wallin
|McLaughlin, Milbrey Wallin
|Carter, Prudence L
|Meyerson, Debra E
|Carter, Prudence L
|Meyerson, Debra E
|Statement of responsibility
|Submitted to the School of Education.
|Thesis (Ph. D.)--Stanford University, 2010.
- © 2010 by Hayin Kim
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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