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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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About the Contributors


Ujju Aggarwal is a writer, activist, and teacher. Her research grows out of her long-time work as a community organizer and educator. She has taught at Hunter College, Sarah Lawrence College, SUNY Educational Opportunities Center, and The New School. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Urban Policy and Research Analysis (UT Austin). She works with the Parent Leadership Project, INCITE!, and is on the Community Advisory Board of the Participatory Action Research Center for Education Organizing.

Wayne Au is an Associate Professor in the College of Educational Studies at the University of Washington Bothell, and he is an editor for the social justice education magazine and publisher, Rethinking Schools.

Amy Brown is an anthropologist and educator whose work focuses on race, gender, and the impacts of privatization on public institutions. She brings five years of experience as a teacher in New York City public secondary schools to her scholarship. Her book, A Good Investment? Privatization and Professional Performance in an Urban Public School, is currently under contract with the University of Minnesota Press. She is a faculty member in the Critical Writing Program at the University of Pennsylvania.

Brian Jones is a former New York City public school teacher pursuing a PhD in Urban Education at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He co-narrated the film The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman and contributed to the book Education and Capitalism: Struggles for Learning and Liberation....

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