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School Zoning in Montgomery County

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. History of Exclusionary Zoning
  3. Overview of the Problem
  4. Conclusion


The issue of poverty has impacted many families throughout the country and has affected the educational system of schools in countless counties in the United States. The United States has a self-inflicted, widespread problem that concludes to being concentrated poverty. Neighborhoods with concentrated poverty, who have a poverty rate of approximately 40 percent or higher, lack the resources to provide quality schools, job opportunities, safer neighborhoods, and access to substantial healthcare.

Yet, there has been an identifiable trend of public policy declining, and the number of impoverished neighborhoods rising throughout the United States. Exclusionary zoning is defined as an oft-mentioned policy that keeps affordable housing out of neighborhood through land use and building code requirements. Although this practice is legal, it is unethical based on its damaging effect that prevents lower income families from having the same access to the education and employment opportunities that are found in wealthier neighborhoods.

Exclusionary zoning is a communal problem that has been illustrated in Montgomery County through the school district’s approval of school zoning and its effect on families’ ability to acquire the same educational resources as other areas in Clarksville, Tennessee that are not as impoverished.

History of Exclusionary Zoning

The history of exclusionary zoning dates back to the early decades of the twentieth century and was ingrained as a channel for racial discrimination. Exclusionary zoning made it possible for white neighborhoods to flourish with the protection of the law forbidding minorities to establish residence in their communities. In a period where racial discrimination was protected by the law, exclusionary zoning was not identified as an issue that pitted one class system against the other or enabled the poor from acquiring resources towards success.

However; in 1917 the United States Supreme Court was met with its first case that challenged exclusionary zoning through the transaction of two individuals; one white male and one black male. During this transaction, the white individual sold a house to a black individual, but because of the ordinance that was constituted in that particular city, the black individual was not legally allowed to live in an area that was majority white residents. Because of this ordinance, the Supreme Court would question whether this violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or not.

The Supreme Court case Buchanan v. Warley would confirm that this state’s ordinance was in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and was ruled as being unconstitutional. Although this case was a pivotal moment in the history of minorities and the colored race, examples of exclusionary zoning still exist to this day and can be recognized within school zoning in many districts throughout counties in the United States. Demographics Clarksville, Tennessee has a population of 146, 281 people with a median age of 29 and a median household income of $48, 675 with an estimated growth between 2015 and 2016 of approximately 1. 85% in population size and 3. 68% in household income.

The population of Clarksville, TN is 59. 4% White, 22. 1% Black, and 10. 8% Hispanic with 11% of the people speaking a non-English language with approximately 97. 5% of the residents being United States Citizens. Clarksville’s population contains approximately 16. 6% of its residents that are living in poverty, which is higher than the national average of 14%. Because of the immense issue of poverty that exists throughout Montgomery County, I have decided to focus on the social problem of school zoning which has caused an imbalance in the educational resources that children receive.

Overview of the Problem

The Fair Housing Act was enacted to prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, and familial status but did not prohibit class-based discrimination. This was used as a loophole for discrimination that confined low-income people to certain neighborhoods. I have noticed that there are areas in Montgomery county that are more impoverished than others, and the schools in those areas are a reflection of the poverty that their residents encounter. Before the Montgomery County School Board approved the rezoning proposal, parents were able to enroll their children at any school regardless of their residential address.

However, once the school board approved the rezoning proposal, this declared that a child must enroll at a school, in Montgomery County, which is in their zoned residential area. School zoning is a concrete example of the effects of exclusionary zoning and how it can prevent children from receiving the same educational resources as others. Pete Rodrigue expressed in his article on exclusionary zoning that it limits poor families’ access to good school and is even linked to harming lower-income students’ success in school (2016).

School zoning may not be perceived as a disadvantage to the students attending schools in Montgomery County, but there are many factors that contribute to the issue of school zoning and its effect on the student’s academic success. The top four contributing factors that are influential in the social problem of school zoning include: lower revenue for schools that are located in poorer residential areas, lower academic performance percentile for students ranging from elementary to high school, exacerbating socioeconomic segregation by involving patterns of residential division by both race and income which limits the strategies to increase socio-economic school integration. School zoning also limits lower-income families’ school choices based on the factor that the quality of a students’ school is determined by their ZIP code and accentuating that because their parents live in “crappy” neighborhoods, a child must attend “crappy” schools.

The disparities that I discovered within this social problem relates to socioeconomic class, ability level, and even race. Exclusionary zoning suggests that children may only attend the elementary, middle, and high school that is located in their residential area. However, if the child happens to live in a poorer area of town, for example New Providence or 41-A in Clarksville, it is visible that that child’s school receives less funding than areas such as Sango or Rossview. A child’s education should not be less than that of any other child’s just because his or her school is on one side of town and/or his or her parents’ income is lower than another’s.

The school zoning proposal should not have been successfully enacted by the Montgomery County School districts in Clarksville, Tennessee. Each year the school district is allotted a certain amount of money towards their budget in order to disperse amongst the schools that are in their district.

Montgomery County schools were projected to receive over $3. 5 million in growth funds as a part of Governor Bill Haslam’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget. By evaluating evidence from statistics on school funding from each school within the Montgomery school district, we can assess the validity of such funds being appropriated in the county. Although, this number does illustrate as an advantage for the schools, it is just as important to review published reports from residents’ children enrolled in schools that have been affected by exclusionary zoning and their opinions on the enforcement of school zoning.


As a future social worker, the primary question I seek to address through the analysis of the social problem of school zoning is “Why does school zoning affect a child academically, when all children should receive an equal opportunity to obtain an education?” I believe that by gathering information on this particular social problem I will shed light on the disadvantages of school zoning and advocate for the equality of education for all children, regardless of the residential address and families’ socio-economic statuses.

The social work implications in relation to this social problem involve how students are negatively affected by the district school zoning policy that has been instituted by the school board. Every child deserves the opportunity for an equal education. However, because of school zoning, this creates uneven education resources if the school is located within a poorer neighborhood with lower community funding. With the advocacy of social workers, they can address the need for equality of all individuals and expose the disadvantages of school zoning and its effects on a student’s academic advancement.

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