Redlining and its stealth impact on Education

Since the Federal Housing Administration was established in 1934, housing segregation has been entrenched in the fiber of the American landscape. By refusing to insure mortgages in and near African-American neighborhoods, the Federal Housing Administration encouraged segregation, forcing minorities to remain in urban centers while whites moved to ever-expanding suburbs.

This tactic has since become known as redlining, which is defined as the “the systematic denial of various services to residents of specific, often racially associated, neighborhoods or communities, either directly or through the selective raising of prices.” Although this explicit form of redlining was declared illegal over 50 years ago in 1968 with the passage of the Fair Housing Act, it continues its harm today.

The echoes of this policy still impact our cityscapes. With educational funding tied to property taxes, and in extension the value of the housing in a neighborhood, redlining still contributes to the systematic denial of resources to poor and minority neighborhoods.

Technology provides families with an abundance of tools and options which allow them to find the perfect neighborhood to move their families into. Many families heavily consider an area based on school desirability. Websites like Greatschools allow these families to effortlessly evaluate schools based on quality, test scores, and environment.

According to Greatschools, their rating follows a “1-10 scale, where 10 is the highest and 1 is the lowest.” Each rating is assigned a color along a gradient: dark green is a 10, yellow is a 5, and orange is a 1. With parents becoming more tech savvy, it is simple for a parent to choose the school which most fits their desires and budget. Why choose to have your children attend a school rated a 2 when you can move into a similar district with a school rated an 8?

Students are assigned to attend schools based on where they live, which means the amount of funding those schools receive may drastically impact the quality of educational resources available to a student. Comparing neighborhoods in San Diego County, the quality of schools in Carlsbad compared to Vista seems a stark contrast.

In the screenshot below, compare the number of green vs. yellow or orange ratings between the two neighborhoods, and compare the highest, lowest, and median scores of the schools in these districts.

Consider the following demographics of the two areas. The median income for residents of Carlsbad rests at $102,722. In contrast, the same figure is $59,833 in Vista. The average home prices crests at $835,300 in Carlsbad and $548,700 in Vista.

This provides some insight into how one district is rated higher than the other. Property taxes are used as modern day barriers to prevent all students from succeeding in the public school system.

When students receive their educational funding through these means, it reinforces their social standing. There is no freedom in moving to a better school district, as most families are locked into the neighborhoods they can afford. With access to education locked in based on socio-economic status their educational prospects and ability to alter status is significantly hindered.

This self-perpetuating cycle harms every student’s ability to succeed. By cracking open these norms and providing low income students with quality education, it is possible to begin to overcome these inequalities and begin to undo the decades of redlining entrenched in our educational system.

Jonathan Jimenez – Research Associate