Home > Uncategorized > Homeless Students Increase in NYC… Underscoring Impact of Externalities on “School Quality”

Homeless Students Increase in NYC… Underscoring Impact of Externalities on “School Quality”

August 16, 2017

Elizabeth Harris’ article in today’s NYTimes opened with this unfathomable fact:

There were 100,000 homeless students in New York City public schools during the 2015-16 school year, a number equal to the population of Albany.

The article, which was triggered by the release of a report to be released on today by the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness, assesses the impact of homelessness on students, noting that on average those 100,000 children missed 88 days of school during the year they were homeless. Ms. Harris provides many facts like that in her article, but the facts understate the impact of homelessness because data cannot capture what the stress must be like for children who are exposed to the threats of losing their homes over extended periods of time. Nor can the data accurately capture the number of near homeless children: children whose parents are threatened with the need to move because of higher rents, lost employment, and family tragedies.

Nor does the article delve into some of the ways homelessness undercuts the efforts of public school teachers and administrators to improve their schools and undercuts the accountability measures used to determine the “quality” of schools. A few examples:

  • How can schools in the Bronx, which had over 10,000 homeless students, be compared with schools in Bayside Queens, which had “only” 823 homeless students?
  • How can the parents of the 100,000 students who are homeless be expected to complete the daunting paperwork necessary to apply for entry into a charter school?
  • And if the charter schools do not include homeless students in their applicant pools or student bodies, how can their results be compared to those of schools like those in the Bronx where there are high concentrations of homeless children?

The overarching questions, then, are these:

  • How can public schools whose attendance zones include the worst housing in the city and highest levels of homelessness be expected to perform as well as public schools whose attendance zones include the best housing and lowest levels of homelessness?
  • How can “school choice” be any kind of solution for families who wonder where they will live?

Reformers need to answer these questions before offering solutions.

%d bloggers like this: