Wednesday Reading List: Gentrification/Segregation, "Make School Meals Great Again," and Child Welfare

Kate Taylor of The New York Times takes a close look at how school segregation perpetuates itself:

A look at the history of District 3, which stretches along the West Side of Manhattan from 59th to 122nd Street, shows how administrators’ decisions, combined with the choices of parents and the forces of gentrification, have shaped the current state of its schools, which, in one of the most politically liberal parts of a liberal city, remain sharply divided by race and income, and just as sharply divergent in their levels of academic achievement ...  Today, over a third of the roughly 14,000 elementary and middle school students in District 3 are white. But they are unevenly distributed. All but one of the zoned elementary schools below West 90th Street are now majority white. But because white parents elsewhere in the district take advantage of alternatives to their zoned schools, elementary schools in more ethnically diverse neighborhoods, like Manhattan Valley and Morningside Heights, remain largely black and Hispanic, and poor. Their test scores trail those of the district’s mostly white schools, and as the neighborhoods gentrify, their enrollment is declining.

Folks who study - or experience firsthand - the consequences of gentrification will recognize these patterns. In the cases that Taylor describes, the physical proximity of families with unlike backgrounds has not led to a shared experience with schools. In slightly more academic terms, diversity has not hastened greater inclusivity or equity.

Elsewhere in The New York Times, Erica L. Green and Julie Hirschfeld Davis report on the Trump administration's rollback of Obama-era programs:

The Trump administration took aim Monday at two signature programs of the former first lady Michelle Obama, rolling back her efforts to promote healthy school lunches nationwide and potentially rebranding her program to educate adolescent girls abroad. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that school meals would no longer have to meet some requirements connected with Mrs. Obama’s initiative to combat childhood obesity by overhauling the nation’s school menus ... Mr. Perdue said the Obama-era rules had resulted in increased costs for school districts and declining participation in the federal school lunch program. He said relaxing the rules was part of the administration’s effort to “make school meals great again.”


I had to read that twice ...


He really said that.

Moving on, Amy Rothschild of The Atlantic looks at what the Trump era will mean for the United States's participation in international child-wellness efforts:

... the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child ... enshrines children’s right to an education, to health care, to expression—and, yes, to play. It recognizes families as the fundamental unit of society, and says that families should be provided necessary protection and assistance to fulfill responsibilities to their children. United States delegates played an active role in drafting the convention in the late 1980s. Since then, all United Nations member states have ratified it, with one exception: the United States ... Now, with an administration that aims to boost military spending; reduce funding for affordable housing, education, and other programs that assist low-income families; and dramatically reshape related policies, they say that a commitment to children’s rights is critical to safeguarding children and tempering rising inequality ... The United States is one of the richest nations in the world, yet it has one of the highest rates of child poverty among developed nations. The National Center for Children in Poverty finds that 43 percent of children in the United States live in families barely able to afford their most basic needs.

Critics of the treaty suggest that its focus on the rights of children undermines national sovereignty. Call me crazy, but if a country's policymakers consistently undermine the health, welfare, and rights of children, perhaps they deserve an external check on their decision-making authority.

Speaking of reality checks, Liz Willen of The Hechinger Report talks to students who are academically prepared for college, but still struggle to finance their pursuits in higher education:

While some of Match High’s top students are contemplating full scholarships to top-tier schools like Dartmouth and Williams, reality hits home as National College Decision Day (May 1) approaches — and it hurts. “These kids have worked so hard for four years, and then colleges say to them, ‘You have a $30,000 gap [between financial aid and annual costs] but we’d love to have you,’ ” Larkin says. “How are they supposed to feel about that?” ... These are among the financial realities that encourage even the brightest low-income students to choose colleges and universities with fewer resources and lower success rates, while their wealthier counterparts are more likely to end up at institutions with higher graduation rates, well-connected alumni and an array of perks. In addition, aid from the government, merit aid from universities and private programs increasingly provide more benefit for wealthier students with high grade-point averages and top scores on entrance exams.

The more I hear stories and statistics like these, the more it becomes clear that our higher education system is exacerbating opportunity gaps for underserved communities and children. If you're someone who pays a lot of attention to K-12 education policy, it's worth understanding the extent to which similar patterns emerge in higher education. Have a great day.