Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration Workshop: Angela Simms, Ph.D. Student, Penn Sociology

School Choice, Neoliberalism, and Racial Inequality: How Black and White Parents Manage Schooling in the Cleveland, Ohio, Metropolitan Area
169 McNeil Building
Friday, April 7, 2017 - 12:00pm - 1:30pm

Proponents of “school choice” argue that offering parents public school options other than traditional neighborhood schools empowers parents to secure the best education for their children.  But because school choice was introduced into an education system where Black, Latino, and poor parents are more likely to send their children to neighborhood schools that fail to meet state academic proficiency standards, than are their White and middle class peers, and because racial residential segregation persists in most U.S. metropolitan areas, parents’ exercise of choice reflects and reinforces, not ameliorates, already-existing inequality.  School choice itself is constitutive of neo-liberal, or market-based solutions, to the provision of public goods, which transfers responsibility and failure risk from government to families.  While there are studies on students’ performance in traditional and non-traditional public schools, our study contributes an understanding of how choice is exercised and experienced day to day by Black and White parents.  We use interviews with 42 Black and White parents who have children in elementary school in the Cleveland, Ohio, metropolitan area, to compare the processes Black and White parents use to:  (1) decide where to send their children to school and (2) manage daily schooling routines.  We find that, regardless of class background, most White parents send their children to their neighborhood school because they are satisfied with it, while most Black parents seek alternatives because they are not.  As a result, White parents have a “package deal” and Black parents a “parenting tax.”

Full paper can be read here.