The other day I was walking with a friend and passed a woman wearing a shirt that had a skeleton hand flipping us off with the word “gentrification” under it in a pretty sick, metal font. It’s no secret that Eagle Rock has been changing these past few years. Change in the form of a quickly rotating cycle of businesses and restaurants that seem to go as fast as they came. This is not even to mention the notable spike in housing prices as well. Gentrification is an issue that has a lot of emotion attached to it. This is not invalid by any means, however, it does make it challenging to derive the facts behind what’s going on.
Gentrification is a process by which a poorer area receives an influx of middle-class/wealthy people who renovate or rebuild homes and businesses, often resulting in an increase in property values and displacement of earlier, usually poorer residents. We know this, we see it happening. Obviously, the demographics of both this neighborhood and this school have changed in the past few years. But how does the neighborhood doing better, negatively impact the school community?
Well, our school relies on a system of federal funding called “Title 1 funding”. This was established in 1965 by Lyndon B. Johnson as a part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). What it is, is it basically grants funding to schools with 40% of the population being “low income” or needing free/reduced lunch. So, our school can apply for special grants because we happen to qualify for them, and it has been like this for quite some time. However, when neighborhood property values go up, only wealthier people can afford to live in them. Additionally, while Eagle Rock has a Magnet program, we are not a magnet school, this means that students who are not in the program have to be “zoned” for the school, AKA you have to live in Eagle Rock. So, if the majority of the school population comes from people who live in Eagle Rock, and only wealthy people are going to be able to live in Eagle Rock… you do the math. Actually, don’t, I’ll do it for you: we won’t have that 40%, and we won’t qualify.
So, how big a deal is this? How much does our school really rely on this program? The answer is quite a bit. Our school gets hundreds of thousands of dollars from this program. It funds our teachers, our PSWs, several school-wide programs, and all the good stuff.
I talked to Mr. Cohen about this and I asked him if he believed that losing Title 1 was inevitable. We talked about it for a bit and eventually decided that yeah, it probably is. Based on the recent trends/data, losing Title 1 is probably somewhere down the line in our school’s future. Because of this, many people worry about public schools like Eagle Rock going charter. The only reason this generally happens is because it allows schools to keep all the money the district makes from attendance. However, at Eagle Rock, it is hard to forget all the benefits that LAUSD provides us. “The small stuff adds up, the trucks that show up that have the big LAUSD logo on the side, we wouldn’t have any of that. That would have to come out of pocket.” He told me that we have been an LAUSD public school since 1927 and that was not going to change.
We have a very strong community that supports the public schooling system and that is willing to come together to support us. Mr. Cohen recalled that a few years ago, the school almost didn’t have enough money to keep the 8-period bell schedule, but the community came together and everything worked out. We are not about to alienate our community. In fact, we may come to rely on them in the future.
Many local elementary schools have already seen the effects of losing T1 funding and are having to deal with the question, what comes next? Oftentimes the answer comes down to fundraising. Elementary schools have been relying on massive fundraising efforts to help support the school and its programs, and it’s actually pretty effective. With a community that is getting wealthier and wealthier, now exists an untapped resource. This could be one path we go down but it’s not the only one. There are plenty of other forms of funding and grants that are being vetted by the district and administrators right now.
Even though there is still plenty of hope for the future, it is hard to not be anxious when many programs that make Eagle Rock such a great school rely on funding like Title 1 in order to exist. This anxiety is not unfounded. Cuts are possible, there is a real reason to take action. But against who? Or rather, what?
Gentrification is anything but a simple issue. One thing I have observed through research on the issue is that people who are “gentrifiers” don’t do it out of malice, but rather ignorance. We are all looking out for ourselves and often don’t realize that doing something like renovating our homes can lead to a ripple effect on others. It’s not the fault of the people renovating, and it definitely isn’t the fault of people being pushed out of their homes. It’s a system that is unsustainable and unforgiving. It’s very hard to create areas reserved for people of low income or lower socioeconomic status without turning those areas into ghettos, in the historical sense. This little experiment in capitalism has failed and if we are to stop gentrification (something that under this current system, is inevitable), we would need to fundamentally restructure the system.
It’s a tough issue and one we need to continue to be aware of and work with each other on. It all comes back to talking and problem-solving. Young people hate to hear it but we are the future, and it’s going to be up to us to solve problems like gentrification. But, that’s a lot to ask right now; so for god’s sake, turn in that Household Income Form.
It’s getting more and more expensive to live in Eagle Rock.
We rely on something called “Title 1 funding” which we can only get if it’s not expensive in Eagle Rock.
We will likely lose the funding in the coming years, but there are solutions.
Don’t worry, we have ideas, the important thing is to know that the school is looking out for us and there are plenty of solutions currently being vetted.
The best thing you can do right now is to fill out the Household Income Form and turn it in to the attendance office and remember that you are the future!!