Research: Intersections between neoliberal education reform strategies and social justice, urban policy

Bloustein School Associate Professor Julia Sass Rubin, Ryan M. Good Ph.D ’16 (Eastern Mennonite University), and Michelle Fine (City University of New York) co-authored the introduction for a special issue of the Journal of Urban Affairs (May 2020) on the topic of “Unequal Schools and Communities: A Critical Examination of Neoliberal Education Reform.” They note that many of the articles in this special issue were first presented at the inaugural “Education Reform, Communities and Social Justice” research conference held at the Bloustein School.

In their introduction, Rubin, Good and Fine observe that “neoliberal education reforms have gained increasing momentum across the United States, emphasizing school choice, market discipline, standardized testing, high-stakes evaluation, privatized management, and the reframing of public education as a site for capital investment.” The special issue examines the intersections between neoliberal education reform strategies and questions of social justice, community development, and urban policy.

The articles speak to the political economy of urban education and its entanglement with ‘development’; how race matters in school selection and attitudes toward school closure; where and how resistance to charter schools and high stakes testing has been mobilized; and the racialized reach and impact of zero-tolerance discipline policies. The articles also focus on how parents, educators, and students are navigating the radically redesigned landscape of school ‘choice.’ With a wide-angle view of the policies and practices born in neoliberal logics, these articles reveal the consequences, the resistance, and the alternatives, infused with a sense of outrage, equity and hope.