Tides of the changing same : race, class, gender and school choice in neoliberal times




Mott, Michelle Lea

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In many public school districts across the nation, the policy of allowing parents to select the school their child attends is gaining greater popularity. Advocates for this policy argue that it enables the public sector to function more like the private sector, putting the onus of success and high achievement on the schools directly. As the theory goes, the market-based policies of competition and tethering funding to performance incentivizes school improvement that will benefit the educational needs and outcomes for all students. Critics of this policy argue that this neoliberal model exacerbates existing inequities in the distribution of economic resources and educational attainments. In this dissertation, I use ethnographic methods to explore what happens when school choice policies and practices intersect with neoliberal urbanism. The research for this project was conducted in an urban school that adopted specialized bilingual English-Spanish immersion programming as both a means to thwart declining student enrollment resulting from neighborhood gentrification and to serve the existing population of working class and low-income, predominately Latinx, students. As the school and the dual-language programming gain greater popularity, and as the neighborhood continues to see higher costs for housing, the school population becomes increasingly middle-class. Basing my study in a two-way dual language immersion school in a rapidly gentrifying urban area, I explore questions of belonging, equity, and resource allocation in neoliberal times. This study looks at the ways that teachers, administrators, and parents of disparate racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, national, and linguistic subjectivities interact and respond to school integration and (re)segregation. In the end, I argue that as the modes for securing middle-class advantages are part and parcel of our educational structure, they work alongside and through other mechanisms of (re)producing social inequalities along racialized, classed, and gendered lines.



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