University of Illinois at Chicago

File(s) under embargo







until file(s) become available

School Consolidation in the Unequal City: How Race and Class Shape Efforts to Change Urban Education

posted on 2023-08-01, 00:00 authored by Maximilian Cuddy
School segregation is a fundamental feature of American education. Although efforts to integrate schools reached their peak in the 1960s and 1970s, in the 21st century there has been little political appetite to combat the issue. This dissertation examines an atypical example of contemporary school integration. I trace the complex story behind the consolidation of two adjacent neighborhood elementary schools in Chicago: one that is plurality white and has a small share of low income students and the other that is predominantly Black and low income. I use this case to explore questions of race, power, and justice. In doing so, I draw on 116 interviews with 96 respondents, 90 hours of participant observation, document analysis, and archival research. I demonstrate how the politics of race and class played into all aspects of the consolidation: the origins, resistance to, and then ultimate pursuit of the idea by a committed group of parents and community members. I follow this group’s efforts, highlighting the non-confrontational tactics they use to convince the school district to change the institutional status quo and consolidate the schools. I argue that once the consolidated school opens, familiar tensions arise around race, power, and building community. Finally, I step back to reconsider and reframe the consolidation story. I argue that the question of consolidation was the wrong one overall, and instead suggest a more radical approach centering racial justice for Black students and their families. I end by using my radical imaginary to put forth ways that this kind of justice could be achieved. My findings contribute to the broader understanding of the ways in which race and class shape American education and advance our conversation about the meaning of racial justice.



Lewis, Amanda E


Lewis, Amanda E



Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Degree name

PhD, Doctor of Philosophy

Committee Member

Clarno, Andy Krysan, Maria Jones, Jennifer A Posey-Maddox, Linn

Submitted date

August 2023

Thesis type



  • en

Usage metrics


    No categories selected