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What’s Race Got To Do With It?

How Current School Reform Policy Maintains Racial and Economic Inequality


Edited By Bree Picower and Edwin Mayorga

Within critical discussions of school reform, researchers and activists are often of two camps. Some focus their analyses on neoliberal economic agendas, while others center on racial inequality. These analyses often happen in isolation, continuing to divide those concerned with educational justice into «It’s race!» vs. «It’s class!» camps. What’s Race Got To Do With It? brings together these frameworks to investigate the role that race plays in hallmark policies of neoliberal school reforms such as school closings, high-stakes testing, and charter school proliferation. The group of scholar activist authors in this volume were selected because of their cutting-edge racial economic analysis, understanding of corporate reform, and involvement in grassroots social movements. Each author applies a racial economic framework to inform and complicate our analysis of how market-based reforms collectively increase wealth inequality and maintain White supremacy. In accessible language, contributors trace the historical context of a single reform, examine how that reform maintains and expands racial and economic inequality, and share grassroots stories of resistance to these reforms. By analyzing current reforms through this dual lens, those concerned with social justice are better equipped to struggle against this constellation of reforms in ways that unite rather than divide.

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2. Mayoral Control: Reform, Whiteness, and Critical Race Analysis of Neoliberal Educational Policy



The following chapter is an attempt to articulate theoretical and praxis-oriented analysis of the realities of mayoral control (MC) through the broader ideology of Whiteness and the current project of neoliberal school reform. To understand mayoral control as ideology and policy, critical race theory (CRT) is used to gain a further understanding of its function as hegemonic machination of the state. As a theoretical construct with beginnings in legal scholarship, CRT’s utility in education reveals intersectional oppressions in the form of racist, neoliberal, corporate educational reform. Instead of resting solely on analytical critique of mayoral control, the following contribution concludes with tangible examples of community opposition that has the potential for substantive change in the current landscape of city and educational politics. Written through the lens of critical race praxis (CRP), the idea is to have readers engage the possibilities of interrupting mayoral control through concrete collective strategies.

The editors of this collection of writings have alerted us to the “Hydra” of neoliberal school reform. In its many iterations, one of the “heads” of the Hydra is mayoral control. If the body is neoliberal education reform, mayoral control should be considered one of the dangerous appendages, which in turn creates the formidable enemy that overtly argues for the end of public education as we know it. As strategy and practice, mayoral control operates on myriad assumptions primarily rooted in the belief that city residents are unable to make tangible decisions regarding quality...

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