With guest, Louder Than a Bomb poet Nate Marshall

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

20,000 homeless CPS students. Not an 'excuse' but a reality.

Homeless Jesus statue unveiled in Chicago. But 20,000 homeless students remain invisible. 
I and many others have been trying to make the case for years, that children's lived experiences outside of school have as great, or even greater impact on measurable learning outcomes than anything that goes on in the classroom. Conditions of poverty, homelessness, poor medical care, pandemic violence, poor nutrition, etc.. all play major roles in shaping the student's connection to school.

Of course, great teachers, small classes and small, well-equipped schools, along with good school district, state and federal policies and leadership can do much to counter or soften the negative impact of poverty but nevertheless, today's widening poverty gap explains most of what is called, the "achievement gap."

In today's test-crazy school environment, the above statement is often attacked by corporate reformers as "making excuses" or "defending the status quo." But the facts are stubborn fellows and can't be dismissed so easily.

Take as a case in point Monday's public meeting by a state task force, which concluded that homelessness and transportation are two big reasons why so many Chicago Public Schools students are truant and that mass school closings in black and Latino neighborhoods have intensified the problem. The task force estimated that 20,000 CPS students do not have a stable place to live.
"Homelessness is not always those who live on the street or in shelters but also those staying with family and friends on a regular basis," said Antoinette Taylor, chairwoman of the 42-member Truancy in Chicago Public Schools Task Force. "And because of school closings it has forced students to travel even farther to get to school." -- DNAinfo
According to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, there were 2,615 homeless students attending the 99 schools that are being closed or scheduled to receive closing schools.

The Coalition warned Byrd-Bennett and Rahm about the potential consequences of the school closings and turnarounds for homeless students last May.
Under the massive plan, another 28 schools are impacted – five schools will become “turnarounds,” with all teaching and support staff fired and replaced, and 23 grade and high schools will undergo 11 “co-locations” in shared buildings. When including all 127 schools impacted by closure/mergers, turnaround and co-locations, a total of 41,096 students will be impacted, and  3,607 students (8.8%) are homeless.
Let's see what, if anything will change now that the task force has heard from community voices.

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