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.
What enables communities to resist neoliberal education reforms? Lessons from Newark and Camden, New Jersey, by Stephen Danley & Julia Sass Rubin
Neoliberal education reformers advance a set of strategies intended to improve public education by incorporating market-based approaches. To facilitate the adoption of these often unpopular ideas, neoliberal reformers advocate for governance mechanisms that make it more challenging for communities to control their public schools. The prevalence of such undemocratic governance mechanisms has grown over the last decade, undercutting communities’ efforts to organize in opposition to the neoliberal education agenda. However, these governance mechanisms do not necessarily shut down the organizing. We examine what facilitates sustained community resistance to neoliberal reform in the presence of undemocratic governance mechanisms and find that access to social and economic capital and timely access to information via an engaged press are present in the existing accounts of such resistance. We explore this emerging hypothesis via in-depth comparative case studies of Newark and Camden, New Jersey. Our analysis of these 2 cities provides additional evidence for the hypothesis that access to social and economic capital and to information makes sustained resistance possible. We also identify a third variable, extreme political control as manifested through political machines, that intersects with the other variables to limit the sustainability of resistance movements in the presence of undemocratic governance mechanisms.