Property tax and education–Ben and Guinier reflection

Our class conversation about Bell and Guinier has lingered with me—the inherent connection between class and race is something that we have discussed many times in our course thus far, but the correlation between geography and class is not something that I often thought about in such explicit terms. Of course where you live is indicative of your socioeconomic status, and therefore of the opportunities that you have for employment and education. I guess I just need such a connection to be explicitly laid out in order for me to understand how problematic such a connection can be, and actually is. I have long thought that funding of public education via property tax is inherently unequal—obviously the school districts that have higher income per household are going to be able to support more expensive education for their children. But the attachment that is so evident between race and class stems to geographical divides, and ultimately results in the continued segregation of school districts. The labor opportunities in geographical areas dictate the socioeconomic status of the residents of neighborhoods, and a lack of opportunities for socioeconomic mobility diminishes the possibility of movement from geographical areas. There appears, to me, to be an endless cycle that captures non-whites in geographically specific areas, dictating labor opportunities for advancement outside of their geographic area, and then also controls the education quality that their families receive. Without a means for mobility via excellent education, it is predictable that children of these communities will also be trapped in a cycle of lesser wages and poorer working conditions. There are stories of upward mobility and successful division from the status quo, but the fact alone that the status quo of labor and class is racialized indicates an unlikeliness for mobility. In the Omi and Winant reading, there was description of racial hegemony and the existing social processes that encourage racial divides; their work seems increasingly apparent in Bell and Guinier given the exact implementation of such hegemony. Just as race and racism become common and widely received, a geographical divide of races as a result of labor and class opportunities has become common and widely received. I’m still pondering ways that education can be aided by property tax funding, or other ways to fund education. The implicit racism of the education system that is detailed in Bell and Guinier surprised me, and has lingered in my thoughts since.


One thought on “Property tax and education–Ben and Guinier reflection

  1. Tina, this is something that I have thought a lot about as well. It appears to me that racism has just evolved rather than decreased. However, I think that a large majority of society thinks that because overt racism has declined since the era of legal segregation that racism, too, is on the decline. This is simply not the case. Racism has just been institutionalized to such a high degree that it is hard to detect unless you are a minority or have thoroughly covered the history behind certain institutions.

    I mentioned in one of my recent posts that I was shocked to learn that in 1994-1999 the federal government ordered the release of public schools from continuing to implement their desegregation plans put into effect in Brown v. Board in 1954. So 40 years later society decided that the “fad” of segregation was no longer a concern, but it obviously still is!

    If we had to look explicitly at property tax funding, then I think mandatory mass redistricting would have to take place in order for anything to change. I basically propose an “educational gerrymandering” that creates school districts with more diverse racial and economic backgrounds. The problem here would be another episode of “white flight” where the richer people move to avoid the redistricting. This is such a complex problem, there is obviously no singular way to overcome it.


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