Cities and Schools working Together

From Brenda Konkel:

Cities and Schools working Together

A former City Council member sent me this article about how Portland is spending spending $1.6 million to keep poorer kids in their schools. They have a program they initiated to keep poorer students in gentrifying areas of the City. Apparently they lost 11,000 students as the poorer people move out of the area and the richer people move in and send their kids to private schools. And of course, that then meant that the school district was losing state aids. The money is used for rental assistance, gap mortgages and grants to parent and neighborhood groups.

The program is called the Schools, Families, Housing Initiative. And the money will be spent as follows:

<p

    *$950,000, will go to the Portland Schools Foundation for grants aimed at promoting neighborhood schools, so newcomers will decide to send their children to them. The grants could be for anything from repairing broken windows to designing an after-school program.<br /

      *$450,000 in rental assistance for families with school-age children in schools with high student turnover. I should help 80 families avoid eviction and keep their children in the same school.

        *$200,000 for a cash reserve, allowing the Portland Housing Center to offer about 40 below-market second-mortgages to help first-time home owners bridge the gap between the money they borrow and the house they want. The average amount would be about $5,000 per family.

      This is an interesting concept. It’s great to see the City working with their School Board. Do you think the City of Madison City Council, the School Board, Mayor’s office and School Administration will ever get to the point where they are actively looking at the impact of schools on our neighborhoods and develop strategies to help keep our schools and neighborhoods strong? Or will we continue down the path where we say “It’s the school board’s problem”? And the School Board says “It’s the City’s problem”? It’s not our responsibility, with everyone pointing in the other direction.

      It’s painfully obvious to so many in the community that as the schools go, so goes the City. I had thought there was some serious momentum to work on these issues between the City and Schools after last year’s school budget, but those efforts seem to have fizzled or taken the back seat to other issues and I think that is a shame. In fact, the Board of Education-City Liaison Committee hasn’t even met since the new council has been appointed. They have agendas for January, February and March but only minutes for their February meeting. Note, the two City Council members (Knox & Thomas) didn’t even show up.

      Just think, if the Cities and Schools were working together in a meaningful way, perhaps we could find partnerships and ways to help each other with the following:

        Getting kids safely to schools

        Crossing Guards
        Bussing (I think the schools spend something like $750,000 to get kids to school, in addition to $250,000 for bus passes for poor kids.)

        Space sharing

        Community and Neighborhood Meetings
        After school uses of space for community uses

        Sporting events & activities (We could coordinate usage of the parks. Most notably rentals at Breese Stevens, Warner, and a West Side park plus MSCR activities cost $80,000)

        Police Officers in the Schools – The schools pay for 4 police officers

        Coordinating planning efforts so that when we create new neighborhoods we are working with the schools to figure out where the kids will attend schools and what impacts it will have on the school district

        Coordinating human services

        Coordinating services at our libraries

      I’m sure you can probably think of more areas where we could overlap and mutually benefit each other. But it seems, we can’t even get this conversation started. I’d like to see it happen before the schools face their next big crisis and before our neighborhoods have to struggle more. Now is the time to be working on these issues, instead of taking a 4 month vacation from meeting. Or worse, before we’re spending even more money like Portland to fix the problems we helped to create.

There is some kind of “Education Summit” involving MMSD, the city and the county in the works. I hope both the Portland example and Brenda Konkel’s ideas are on the agenda.

More on municipal/school cooperation:

Engaging Cities: How Municipal Leaders Can Mobilize Communities to Improve Public Schools

Civic Capacity – What, Why and Whence

Investing in Urban Public Education Matters (ppt)

Civic Supports Publications (from the Annenberg Institute)

Thomas J. Mertz

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