New York City Charters Enroll Fewer Homeless Students!




Dear Commons Community,

Last year, 99,196 students in New York City’s traditional public schools, or nearly 10 percent of students, were classified as being in temporary housing, according to data from the New York State Technical and Education Assistance Center for Homeless Students, known as NYS-TEACHS, which is funded by the State Education Department and administered by Advocates for Children, a nonprofit group. At the same time, 6,249 students, or roughly 7 percent, in city charter schools were in temporary housing.   As reported by the New York Times:

“The major cause of the disparity, most people agree, is the way charter schools admit students. By law, charter schools admit students by lottery, and most hold their lotteries in April. Many receive more applicants than they have seats available. So, if a family moves between April and September, or in the middle of the school year, and is looking for a school seat in a new neighborhood, they will often be unable to get one in a charter. District schools, in contrast, more easily allow children to move between them.

Charter enrollment “will always disadvantage kids in temporary housing,” Jennifer Pringle, the director of NYS-TEACHS, said. “You have a kid who’s placed in a shelter where the local traditional public school is co-located with a charter school,” she explained. “You can enroll midyear in the traditional public school, but you can’t enroll in that charter school if they don’t have available seats.”

Homeless students are also distributed unevenly among the city’s traditional public schools. There are schools with very few, or no, homeless students, and there are neighborhood elementary schools which, because of overcrowding, will not admit a student in the middle of the year.

…However, in at least 21 of the 29 geographic school districts in the city that have charters, every charter had a lower percentage of students in temporary housing last year than the average among the traditional public schools in the same district. In District 9 in the Bronx, for example, which had the highest concentration of students in temporary housing, 23 percent of students in the traditional public schools were in temporary housing last year, according to data from NYS-TEACHS. Most charters there had percentages of homeless students in the single digits. Icahn Charter School 6 and South Bronx Classical Charter III had the highest percentage, 12 percent.

Students in temporary housing often struggle academically. According to a report on New York City from the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness, a policy research organization, students in temporary housing are nearly twice as likely to be chronically absent — meaning they miss at least 20 days of school — as students who are not homeless. They are also nearly three times as likely to transfer schools midyear, and they have much lower rates of academic proficiency.

Students who live in shelters have even more acute academic issues. At the city’s traditional public schools last year, 35 percent of the students classified as being in temporary housing were living in shelters, compared with 29 percent at charter schools.

Charter schools, in general, are known for having stricter discipline than traditional public schools and for being less tolerant of families whose children are chronically late or absent.”

It will be interesting to see how this issue plays out especially since the charter school advocates will soon have a champion in the U.S. Department of Education in Betsy DeVos.


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