As pictures of high school and college graduates marching across stages made the rounds of social media, I thought back to comments I heard from Jonathan Rose, of innovative affordable housing developer Jonathan Rose Companies, at a recent conference. According to Rose, “graduating high school doesn’t happen at 18, it starts when you are born.” A teenager’s ability to succeed in high school and graduate is influenced by many different factors throughout their lives that can either help or hinder their efforts to graduate high school.
One of those key influences is a child’s home. Research demonstrates that there are several pathways through which affordable, safe and quality housing can support a child’s educational progress and success. Access to affordable housing reduces the risk of homelessness and housing instability that can prevent a child from going to school or being able to focus while in school. Quality housing can reduce the risks of children being exposed to harmful toxins that may exacerbate asthma attacks and result in school absences, or lead, which can harm developmental and cognitive development in children. Affordable housing in safe neighborhoods with high-performing schools and other services can give children a solid foundation to pursue educational success.
As discussions about how to support the educational achievement of low-income children take place, it is important to not only think about how to better support teachers and schools, but also focus on how to enhance the impact of their work through better support of low-income households, so that their children are better equipped to learn in the classroom. Housers must make the effort to be at the tables where education reform discussions take place, and to take on the role of partner and stakeholder in efforts to improve educational opportunity for low-income children.