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Staying in one place = better schooling

Mary Bourque, deputy superintendent of the Chelsea public schools -- along with Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll and Sgt. Leighton Facey and Officer Izzy Marrero of the Boston Police Department -- testify June 1 before the Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Business of the Massachusetts legislature.

MACDC

Those working to revitalize neighborhoods know that no problem exists in isolation.  Everything is inter-connected.  Hence the need for a comprehensive approach to community development.

In recent testimony before the Massachusetts State Legislature, Mary M. Bourque, a school official in Chelsea, Massachusetts, talked about how issues such as poverty and housing have a direct impact on a child's education, simply in the number of moves that a child experiences while growing up. 

Indeed, she specifically emphasized the importance of housing and community development in achieving higher educational outcomes for children.

“I would like you to stop and think for a minute, how many times did you move from one residence to another when you were in grades kindergarten through your high school graduation?” Bourque asked.  “I don’t know about you, but I never moved.”  

'If families stay in one place'

Mary Bourque

She goes on to say that only 14 percent of students sitting in kindergarten class in a local Chelsea school today will graduate from a local high school, and that fully 25 percent of the local student population have transferred into or out of the Chelsea Public Schools this year.

This high level of student mobility, says Bourque, is related to poverty, employment, housing and other factors impacting the quality of life in local communities. 

“What the research results imply,” she explains, “is that if we intervene at the state and local level to provide more opportunities for families to stay in one place, one house, one neighborhood for longer periods of time, then we will see the benefit in academic achievement and we will see a narrowing of the achievement gap.”

Ms. Bourque was testifying in support of the Community Development Partnership Act, a bill being advanced by the Massachusetts Association of CDCs (MACDC), LISC, the United Way and other partners, to create a donation tax credit for high performing community development groups. The bill would empower local communities to take a long term, grassroots and comprehensive approach to community development.

As a result, it has gained support not just from local educators, but also from local police, Mayors, community health centers, corporations, and environmentalists.

'Game changer'

Joe Kriesberg, president of the Massachusetts Association of CDCs

Gordon Walek

Joe Kriesberg, the President of MACDC, told me this bill “is a game changer.”

Kriesberg explained that he and his colleagues are taking a very different approach from past efforts which focused on funding for a single issue — such as foreclosures or rental housing.

This time, he explained, they went to the legislature with a totally different message to say, “We are place-based, we have a comprehensive approach, and we are hitting outcomes across all these areas.” 

The bill would provide a durable source of funding for comprehensive community development, phasing in over 3 years to provide $6 million per year in public funding which would then leverage private funding matches for a total of $12 million per year.

Kriesberg is optimistic that the bill will pass in 2012.

Posted in Education & Early Learning, Thinking Out Loud

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