Homelessness in NYC Poses Problems for Families, Children, and Schools: We Blame the Schools
It is so easy to attack the public schools for failing to solve society’s intractable problems. For twenty years, that has been the strategy of test-and-punish school accountability. As an incentive to get everybody to work harder and smarter, punishments have been prescribed—fire the principal, fire the teachers, close the school, charterize the school. Another assumption has been that governance changes—privatizing schools, opening charters, expanding school choice—would address the needs of children and families. The ideology has said that lack of the freedom to choose is the problem.
Elizabeth Harris reports this week for the NY Times that a serious underlying problem for children in the New York City Schools is unrelated to teachers-not-trying. And this problem cannot be addressed by a school choice system where high schools in NYC no longer have zoned attendance catchment areas and where vulnerable parents now have to play a complicated game to apply for places in the city’s middle and high schools. The problems are much deeper and among them has been rapidly growing homelessness. In a school district that serves over a million students, the enormous scale of family homelessness, the challenges for families in the homeless shelters, and the difficulty of coordinating services at school for homeless students have become overwhelming.