School desegregation, school re-zoning, and growth management in two Maryland counties

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This article examines how school and non-school policies interact to reinforce or disrupt school segregation in the context of suburban communities and how these systems are maintained by structural and institutional mechanisms. Methodologically, we use a case study approach to delve deeply into the interpretation and implementation of school attendance zone redesign and non-school policies, specifically land use policies and tools. We draw on neo-institutionalist theory and Ray’s (2019) framework of racialized organizations to make sense of school districts, planning agencies, and their policies. We find that school district rezoning policies provide a weak regulatory framework for desegregating schools because school zoning decisions are not made in a vacuum but rather are shaped by policies and actions taken by other actors in a multi-level governance structure. School zoning policies themselves prioritized capacity over desegregation, and regulations and norms governing the public engagement processes privilege opposition to desegregation. Our study points to the importance of greater coordination across governmental levels and policy arenas, and underscores how desegregation policy is part of a political and relational process between advocates, elected leaders, families, and youth across policy sectors.


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How to Cite
Bierbaum, A. H., & Sunderman, G. L. (2021). School desegregation, school re-zoning, and growth management in two Maryland counties. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 29(August - December), 165.
Author Biographies

Ariel H. Bierbaum, University of Maryland

Ariel H. Bierbaum, MCP, PhD, is an assistant professor of Urban Studies and Planning in the School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation at the University of Maryland. Her research focuses on the interrelationships of people, place, and public schools. Her work builds understanding of how planning and urban policies foster or hinder educational equity, and how planning frameworks for justice can inform education policymaking and practice.

Gail L. Sunderman, The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles, University of California Los Angeles

Gail L. Sunderman, PhD, is a research associate at the Civil Right Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA and a fellow at the National Education Policy Center (NEPC). She is co-founder and former director of the Maryland Equity Project at the University of Maryland, a research and policy center focused on access to educational opportunity in Maryland. Her research focuses on educational policy and politics, school reform, and the impact of policy on the educational opportunities for diverse students.