The impending closure of the Buena Vista Mobile Park in affluent Palo Alto, Calif. has touched off passionate discussion about a somewhat unexpected topic: school quality.
The mostly Latino and low-income residents can’t otherwise afford to live in the city, and attend the well-regarded public schools there. Developers plan to raze the park to make room for upscale apartments. Residents have begged the City Council to take into account children’s access to a quality school district.
The Palo Alto Weekly reports that the park’s owners say that while a city ordinance requires any displaced residents be moved to a comparable park in “a community similar to that in which the park that is being closed is located and has similar access to community amenities such as shopping, medical services, recreational facilities and transportation” — no mention is made of education.
“There is absolutely no right to a Palo Alto education under the [city] ordinance for converting a mobile home park,” the owner’s attorney, Margaret Nanda, told NPR. “The ordinance says they are to be relocated to comparable housing. And then the ordinance references a number of things, but education is not one of them.”
The city is known for top-notch education — after all, it is home to Stanford University. In August, Palo Alto Weekly reported that the school district ranked sixth among all California districts on the state’s standardized test performance. Hispanic students in Palo Alto outperformed the statewide average for Hispanics.
Former Palo Alto school board member and Stanford education professor Amado Padilla says that students should not be displaced to other districts where they may not receive the same attention.
“There’s just a lot of resources going into the schools in Palo Alto that most of the surrounding school districts cannot match,” he told Palo Alto Weekly.
NPR reported that at one City Council meeting, a civil rights attorney helping the residents said that one mother said she worked cleaning peoples homes and felt her daughter would never have to take such a job if she attended the school district.
As a side note, despite the parents’ pleas to remain in the city’s public schools, a report in May by the group Innovate Public Schools found that Latino students often still struggle in Silicon Valley districts.
For the sake of economic development and gentrification, lower income housing is often removed to make way for new developments intended to draw in more affluent residents. If this is happening in your away, examine the impact on children and families.