Hoarding

Several recent research studies have described a disturbing trend occurring in suburban school districts throughout the country. The trend involves the redrawing of attendance areas by school boards in order to maintain the financial and demographic status of certain schools in the district. The goal of these these redrawn attendance boundaries is to funnel students from upper socio-economic communities into one or two schools located in those same communities. The remaining schools is the district are responsible for educating students from lower socio-economic communities. The segregation of the district into certain schools serving predominantly white students and certain schools serving predominantly students of color is made worse when these same boards generously fund the programs in the favored schools, while at the same time, denying to the remaining schools in the district the funds for maintaining the same academic and extra-curricular programming. HOARDING is the term researchers use to describe this governance practice.

Rather than go into the technicalities of how HOARDING works, I thought I would provide an extensive quote by T. M. M. Cotton, which in my mind, best describes the concept of HOARDING. The quote is from her recent book titled Thick and other Essays. Dr. Cotton is a noted African-American sociologist who teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University

I grew up knowing those whites. They mostly go to private school. When they don’t they make the public high school function like a private school. We call this opportunity hoarding, and it looks something like this: white parents use their economic privilege to purchase homes in communities that have benefited from generations of wealth privilege. When white families purchase in these neighborhoods they are also purchasing access to the local public school. That is because we assign students in the U.S. public school system, for the most part, by their home zip codes. Once enrolled in these schools by virtue of having the income to live in communities that are built on the stabilizing forces of generational wealth, these families generally prize “diversity.”

They are good people. They want all the children in their child’s school to thrive, but they want their child to thrive just a bit more than most. To help their child thrive, these parents use their proximity to local and civic leaders to lobby their personal preferences as politically expedient positions. They gently but insistently marshal resources like teacher time, curriculum access, and extracurricular participation for their children. They donate. They volunteer. They call. They email. They make this already well-funded public-school work like a private school for their child: individualized attention, personalized resources, and cumulative advantage. The opportunities these parents hoard become zero-sum for parents who cannot to the same. The families that can horde do, and the neighborhoods they live benefit.

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