Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Taking Housing, Education Equity beyond the School Doors

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Taking Housing, Education Equity beyond the School Doors

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS * When they founded the school, organizers of City Garden Montessori had the goal of improving educational opportunity in a neighborhood where the only public schools were struggling.

Now they are going a step further, by organizing a broad coalition to tackle a bigger problem: racial and economic segregation in schools and housing.

"The inequity that exists in our region is literally killing our children and killing our communities," said Christie Huck, executive director of City Garden.

She spoke to about 70 individuals gathered Friday at the charter school to better understand the problem before them: neighborhoods and schools that are segregated by race and economics. Children who live in segregated areas often attend schools with the highest teacher turnover, the fewest resources and the lowest test scores. They experience the worst health outcomes and have the lowest life expectancy.

The issues are a focal point of the Ferguson Report, whose "calls to action" highlight solutions and indictments in a number of policy areas, from criminal justice and housing to education and economics.

And while disparities are a problem throughout the St. Louis area, the coalition that gathered at the school will start by focusing on the five neighborhoods that surround it: Botanical Heights, Shaw and Forest Park Southeast and parts of Tiffany and Southwest Garden.

The group included representatives from the housing sector, banks, lenders, district and charter schools, neighborhood groups and nonprofits.

Tanya Clay House, a deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Education, told them she'd worked on police reform prior to joining the education department.

"It's good and interesting to see there is some forward movement coming out of the tragic events that have occurred and put Ferguson and St. Louis in the spotlight," House said.

Numerous studies show that low-income students perform better academically when they share classrooms with affluent children. But increasingly, children who qualify for federally subsidized lunches are in classrooms where the enrollment is overwhelmingly poor. …

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