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Affordable Housing , Announcements , Community Development

IForum on Housing & Education Draws Overflow Crowd, Sparks Discussion

16 February 2012

The 2012 IForums series, organized by the Partnership for Strong Communities, kicked off on Thursday, February 16 when an overflow crowd of more than 180 heard educators and researchers underscore the importance of affordable, safe, secure homes in strong communities in helping students achieve educational success.

The event, “Connecticut’s Achievement Gap: How Housing Policy Can Help Close It,” was attended by leading educational policymakers in Connecticut, including CT State Department of Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, former Commissioner George Coleman, State Board of Education Chairman Allan Taylor, Michael P. Meotti, Executive Vice President of the Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education, and Miguel Cardona, co-chairman of the state’s Achievement Gap Task Force.

In advance of the IForum, the Partnership issued a policy brief that shows intimate connections between housing quality, affordability and location and a student’s emotional growth, physical well-being and school performance, which can be found here.

To view the event on CT-N click here

Check out pictures from the event. 

(If you are having trouble viewing the pictures, click here)

The event’s principal speakers -- Susan Eaton, of Harvard Law School’s Institute for Race and Justice and the author of “The Children in Room E4: American Education on Trial,” an in-depth account of Hartford’s education system and settlement patterns, and Heather Schwartz of the RAND Corporation, who discovered that inclusionary housing programs in Montgomery County, Maryland are greatly improving educational outcomes there – offered a stirring account of how housing and education policy became linked, and can be used to help close the achievement gap.

Eaton described how normal settlement, the development of New England town government and segregated housing patterns – from redlining to exclusionary zoning – created an education system that tends to trap low-income residents in overburdened school districts and communities with few services and too much substandard, albeit expensive, housing. 

Then Schwartz described how Montgomery County’s inclusionary housing policy – whereby all housing development must set aside 10-12 percent of units built for affordable housing – has allowed many low-income families to attend high-resource schools in communities with many services for families and children. The result: higher reading and math scores for low-income students and a significant narrowing of the achievement gap.

Commissioner Pryor underscored the need to “build strong communities” in both the cities and suburbs to offer choices to all families, and Hamden High School Principal Gary Highsmith, also a member of the Achievement Gap Task Force, warned that the major education reform proposals made by Gov. Malloy were very valuable, but needed to be married with housing and community development improvements:

“Policymakers are willing to substitute a wishbone for a backbone. We can’t fix it around the edges. How do we also make sure that kids live in a neighborhood that is safe and works for them. If we’re serious about it, we’ll begin to have these sorts of conversations.”

Panelists Dr. Miguel Cardona, Principal of the Hanover Elementary School in Meriden and Co-Chair of the CT Achievement Gap Task Force, Susan Marks, Superintendent of the Norwalk Public Schools, and Allan Taylor , Chair of the CT State Board of Education, also provided comments and support regarding the connections between housing and educational achievement. Taylor noted:

“We have to do a lot that we wouldn’t have to do if housing patterns provided stable housing and strong communities.It’s vital to do the housing work, it’s vital to do the educational work, it’s vital to have them come together.”

Event Materials:

Media Coverage:

Click here for more on the 2012 IForums series.