Gentrification, Education, and School Reform

Alex Kane Apr 29, 2009

An interesting report recently published from the non-profit Institute for Children and Poverty examines gentrification and its effect on the social landscape of New York City.

The report, titled “Pushed Out:  The Hidden Costs of Gentrification:  Displacement and Homelessness,” looks at housing, homelessness, income, and education through the lens of gentrification, and specifically looks at the neighborhoods of East New York and Canarsie in Brooklyn, and Far Rockaway, in Queens.

Among the more noteworthy parts of the report is its section on school reform and student displacement.  Large high schools in these neighborhoods are closing as a result of their sub par performance, and are being replaced with smaller, more specialized schools.

But will the closings of the big schools displace low-income students?

The report says: “While this type of school reform is generally viewed positively, there are certain drawbacks: the schools being phased out are among the largest in each community district and many students who would have attended these institutions will be crowded into other schools in the district as the capacity of the new small schools, by design, does not equal that of the institutions they are replacing.

As Table 6 shows, thousands of students face the possibility of being displaced. The children of East New York and Canarsie may be the hardest hit by recent school closings, as an estimated 2,150 students in East New York and 2,400 students in Canarsie will be forced to find different schools.

In Far Rockaway, more than 100 students who might have attended Far Rockaway High School will need to go elsewhere for their education. Displaced students will travel farther to and from school each day and risk being further alienated from their changing communities. While the institutions that are currently ‘phasing out’ have underserved their students according to the New York State Department of Education’s School Report Cards, the schools that have opened in their places represent an improvement for only a small segment of the school-aged population.

In other words, gentrification not only transforms the social and economic infrastructure of poor neighborhoods, but may also displace the existing school system.”

Hat tip to the Gotham Gazette for first bringing this to my attention.

To read the rest of the report, click here.

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