Research has shown strong links between children’s academic performance and the stability of their housing. When children have stable housing, they attend school more regularly and experience less stress and emotional problems. This allows them to stay focused and attentive in class and perform better academically.
This is why we were so pleased to see Mayor Jacob Frey and the Minneapolis City Council investing in the Stable Homes Stable Schools program. It’s a smart investment in stable housing for our youngest learners, as a means to decrease poverty and improve children’s academic outcomes.
There’s just one problem, it doesn’t go far enough to address the tremendous need for stable housing among Minneapolis families. Currently Stable Homes Stable Schools is limited to working with families from just 18 elementary schools. In a publicity video announcing the program’s launch, Mayor Frey noted that in the 2018 school year, more than 3,000 children across the Minneapolis Public Schools faced or risked homelessness. In other words, Stable Homes Stable Schools ignores thousands of students who need support.
Currently, there are over 30 charter public schools in Minneapolis, enrolling almost 13,000 students. Compared to district-operated schools in the city, Minneapolis charter schools serve a higher percent of low-income students (68.8% charter, 56.62% MPS); English language learners (29.16% charter, 20.52% MPS); and students of color (76.35% charter, 64.60% MPS). In North Minneapolis, half of the schools that serve elementary aged students are charters. Schools like Sojourner Truth Academy, Harvest Best Academy, KIPP, and Mastery School serve low-income students of color almost exclusively. Thus, the Stable Homes Stable Schools program systematically ignores a large percentage of low-income students and students of color and deprives them of the aid they especially need.
Another group neglected are students who live in Minneapolis but are enrolled in other districts. At the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, according to statistics compiled by the Minnesota Department of Education, more than 83,000 students (or 9% of all Minnesota students) were enrolled in districts outside their own—a phenomenon that is disproportionately prevalent in the Twin Cities Metro Area. Finally, yet another group overlooked by the plan is homeschooled students.
We know that investing in housing helps to reduce opportunity gaps, regardless of whether one attends a traditional district school, a public charter school, or is homeschooled or open enrolled. However, the way Stable Homes Stable Schools currently operates sends the message that the City of Minneapolis is only interested in supporting some students’ educations. If the goal truly is to target our most vulnerable with the allocation of resources, all students in Minneapolis should be eligible to apply for its services.
While some Minneapolis students are being locked out of housing supports, St. Paul is meeting the needs of all its children by ensuring all low-income families are eligible for housing assistance. St. Paul has also built relationships with government agencies outside the city, expanding the available resources.
The $3.85 million Saint Paul Bridge Fund is supported by both the Saint Paul Housing and Redevelopment Authority and an impressive group of private donors: Baird, Bush Foundation, Ecolab Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Securian Foundation, Minnesota, United FC, Minnesota Wild, the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, and Xcel Energy.
We hope you will follow the lead of Mayor Melvin Carter and Governor Tim Walz in reaching out to all residents and unifying us in mutual support at this time when so many are in need. We recommend all funds for housing relief be organized into one fund, to which all Minneapolis low-income families can apply, no matter how their children’s schooling is conducted. This will help more families survive the current crisis with their housing stability, mental health and children’s development intact. It can also help the broader Minneapolis community better understand what a commitment to serving all families looks like and increase the funds available.
Community activists have reached out to you repeatedly without receiving any response. We are calling on you to meet with community members regarding the expansion of the Stable Homes Stable Schools program, and we will continue to press you on this issue because our children are worth the fight.
Together in demanding child justice,
Paul E Johnson
Tiffini Flynn Forslund
James A Clark Jr
Carmen Grace Poppert
Adolfo Llanas Ortiz
Ma mireya Ortiz
Emmy Higgs Matzner
Sister Laura Northcraft
Meta Herrick Carlson
Nekima Levy Armstrong
ANNE E WALLICK-BAUHOF
Tiffini Flynn Forslund
Erika Hernandez (she/her)
Phoenix Shadow Of Moon
Del Matra Jones