This article can be found in the current issue of the Journal of Urban Affairs regarding Unequal Schools and Communities: A Critical Examination of Neoliberal Education Reform.
This article currently has free access and is available to read and download.
Despite decades of sustained underfunding, many urban middle-class parents in Philadelphia are choosing to send their children to public neighborhood elementary schools. In contrast to the dominant idea in the literature that middle-class families bundle their housing and schooling decisions, this research finds that some urban middle-class parents actively choose their neighborhood school. So far, the literature on urban middle-class parents and neighborhood schools has emphasized the social character of the decision-making process, with parents feeling comforted by reinforcement from other parents making the same choice. This research explores a set of more independent choosers who “tune out” the opinions and judgments of their neighbors and who frequently get active in educational volunteerism and fundraising. This research finds that the more independent group may be central to better understanding social processes around neighborhood schools in areas experiencing gentrification. These independent choosers sometimes make their decision when their children are still toddlers or younger, and many in this sample volunteer with Friends of Neighborhood Education (FONE) groups where they actively work to promote and fundraise for their neighborhood elementary school. This article concludes with four parent archetypes representing different kinds of parent choosers corresponding to practical-independent, practical-social, altruistic-independent, and altruistic-social.