Analysis Looks at Ways PHAs and Schools Districts Are Working Together

Scholars from the Urban Institute are looking at the various ways in which public housing authorities (PHAs) and school districts are working together to better serve low-income children living in HUD-assisted housing. The analysis is intended to offer evidence-based ideas for programs and policies public housing agencies can test through HUD’s Moving to Work Demonstration.

Nationwide, nearly 30 percent of all poor children and 58 percent of African-American children live in HUD-assisted housing. It is very likely that the majority of these children attend their local public schools. In Seattle, for example, about 12 percent of all public school students live in subsidized housing.

According to the analysis, most partnerships start at the most basic point: identifying their shared students, typically through data-sharing agreements. Some housing authorities have hired education experts, who understand the local school system and can help families navigate issues like transportation, discipline, standardized testing, and school choice. Others have set aside space in community centers for early learning programs, computer labs, parent programs, and after-school and summer learning opportunities. Some partnerships pilot programs to support students and their families; in Seattle, the partnership is developing long-term approaches to targeting shared students. In some cases, the housing authorities’ ability to hire staff and test ideas comes from local philanthropic partners, but more typically, their Moving to Work status allows them funding and policy flexibility to direct resources to non-housing activities. For example:

  • In Washington, housing authorities in Seattle, Vancouver, King County, and Tacoma are each working to enhance education outcomes like attendance and graduation for their residents through various school- and family-based programs. Seattle’s approach is a system-wide effort in which the school superintendent and the housing authority executive director meet regularly to discuss shared problems and identify solutions.
  • In New Haven, Conn., the PHA provides case management, and other educational supports are available to help all students excel academically, to help parents support their children’s learning, and to improve access to postsecondary opportunities.
  • In Akron, Ohio, the housing authority owns and operates a community-based education resource center with the school district and provides home visiting and services for mothers experiencing maternal depression. 
  • Boulder Housing Partners in Boulder, Colo., has partnered with the national I Have a Dream Foundation to offer Bringing School Home, which provides mentors, after-school programs, and funding for postsecondary education to children living in public housing.