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Kansas City Officials Scrutinize Ties Between Housing Evictions And Children's Academic Performance

Elle Moxley
KCUR 89.3
Kansas City Mayor Sly James convened a presentation Thursday on the city's high eviction rate and its connection to children's academic performance.

Leaders in City Hall and Kansas City Public Schools are just beginning to piece together a connection between Kansas City’s high numbers of evictions and the academic performance of children affected by forced moves.

The data is preliminary, but Michael Reynolds, chief research and accountability officer for the school district, says a relationship is coming into focus.

“Without a question, students who get evicted have worse academic outcomes, according to the state and according to standard testing, than students who don’t,” Reynolds says.

Prompted by research by Tara Raghuveer, who studied evictions in the region as part of a Harvard University student project, Kansas City is taking a close look at how housing crises during the school year cause children to switch schools, suffer trauma and miss valuable learning time.

At a presentation Thursday sponsored by the office of Mayor Sly James, partners in the newly formed Kansas City Eviction Project made a plea to educators throughout the region to work together. If they can use shared data to establish a clear relationship between evictions, student transfers and low test scores, they can use that information to push for policies to keep more kids in their homes and classrooms.

Raghuveer’s research has found that landlords in Jackson County file an average of 42 eviction requests every business day, and judges issue 25 eviction judgment per business day.

Kansas City Public Schools has learned that up to 500 of its students a year are displaced through court-ordered evictions, and many more leave their homes because of disputes with landlords. Those children often transfer to different schools, disrupting their own learning and the education of classmates.

Educators here think student moves are a crucial element that should be included in the annual performance reports that the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education issues for districts and individual schools.

“The state is really the holder of all the cards,” Reynolds said. “They have the entire data set of every school district, every charter school. Mobility is something that they should report.”

James said Kansas City can’t wait for help from the state. “I learned a long time ago that if you’re going to wait around for the state to do something you’re going to be waiting forever,” he said.  

Raghuveer said Kansas City could lead the nation in forming policies to cut down on evictions and student moves if leaders continue the momentum that’s been established over the past year.



Barbara Shelly is a freelance contributor for KCUR 89.3. You can reach her at bshellykc@gmail.com.

Barbara Shelly is a freelance reporter and editor based in Kansas City, Missouri.
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