The 21st Century School Fund, the Brookings Institution, and the Urban Institute released on October 9 an in-depth study on the connections between education, housing and neighborhood development in the District of Columbia.
The study concludes that neighborhood schools are inextricably linked to local housing conditions and that family-friendly housing policies can strengthen neighborhood schools, creating a cycle that strengthens the neighborhood itself. The report offers recommendations that include making investments in the school quality in neighborhoods with high or growing child populations, and expanding affordable family-friendly housing in neighborhoods where high-quality schools already exist.
The study breaks down individual public and public charter schools by resources, including program offerings; results, measured by standardized test scores; and risk, defined as student body characteristics that may undermine results or require supplemental resources. Using these criteria, the study concludes that many families have access only to under-performing schools due to their inability to afford housing in the areas with higher-performing schools. Despite the option of applying to out-of-boundary public schools, many high-performing schools are overcrowded and public transportation is not readily available for students who are farther away. Furthermore, the high-demand public schools are not located where the majority of students live; for example, the elementary schools in the District’s Ward 8 – where 20% of elementary students live – exhibit the lowest demand due to low resources, low results and high risk.
While Washington, DC, has experienced a recent growth in population, its child population (those up to 17 years old) has remained steady. The number of children in the District of Columbia as a percent of the total population is 20%, ranking among the lowest large cities nationwide. Only Boston, Honolulu, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Seattle have smaller percentages of children. The study suggests that these cities could also benefit from more family-friendly housing policies, and educational investments in neighborhoods with affordable housing.
The report, Quality Schools, Healthy Neighborhoods, and the Future of DC, can be found here: www.urban.org/publications/411768.html.