Kansas City Public Schools wins national award for efforts to combat evictions

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The Kansas City Public Schools’ unique partnership with determined researchers and lawyers to help rescue district families from evictions earned national recognition this week.

KCPS won the 2019 Research and Assessment Leadership Award awarded by the Council of the Great City Schools.

The school district partnered with LINC, the Kansas City Eviction Project and Legal Aid of Western Missouri in creating data tools to alert school officials where district families were vulnerable and in danger of eviction.

Tara Raghuveer, Kansas City Eviction Project

Tara Raghuveer, Kansas City Eviction Project

The partnership mined records in housing court and matched them with the district’s student records, giving schools opportunities to reach to families with legal aid and social services before they lost their homes.

“The partnership you created . . . struck us an example of research that is innovative and proactive in supporting students and school staff,” said Moses Palacios, the Council of the Great City Schools’ legislative and research manager in an email to the school district.

The district had already been working to reduce the effects of a high mobility rate among its student population. State records show that nearly half of the students in KCPS either move in or out of their school during the year, compared to the statewide rate of 23 percent.

The Kansas City Eviction Project, supported by LINC, in 2013 began working with data to build public policy to break down the effects of evictions and bring housing stability to more families in Kansas City.

“Forty-two evictions are filed every business day,” the Kansas City Eviction Project’s Tara Raghuveer told the LINC Commission in 2018. And those formal eviction filings, she said, “are only a fraction of the forced displacements that actually take place.”

The project and the school district negotiated a data sharing agreement to help identify and quickly intercede with families in trouble.

“We were able to identify clearly that eviction is a problem for our students and our schools,” said Mike Reynolds, the school district’s chief research and accountability officer. “Now we can begin to apply creative and innovative solutions to address these challenges that are truly out of the control of our students.”

Mike Reynolds, Kansas City Public Schools

Mike Reynolds, Kansas City Public Schools

The district and the project team developed an automated, cloud-based process that alerts school staff when a student’s family appears to be in danger of being evicted through the court system. These families are referred to the recently launched Justice In the Schools program, a new partnership with Legal Aid of Western Missouri that provides free legal assistance for KCPS families. The program was launched with support from the United Way of Greater Kansas City. More information about the program is available at www.kcpublicschools.org/justice.

Households can decrease the likelihood of being evicted by 50 percent if they have any degree of legal representation, according to the Kansas City Eviction Project. Preventing evictions helps both schools and neighborhoods increasing stability, safety, and social, emotional and economic wellbeing.

The Council of the Great City Schools is a coalition of 74 urban public school systems from across the U.S. The award for KCPS will be presented during the council’s 2019 Curriculum and Research Directors Meeting on June 25 in San Diego. A member of Reynolds’ team will also be given the opportunity to lead a presentation about the eviction research and solutions during the meeting.

“It’s nice to get this recognition for our team, but we really see this as a chance to share this model for other urban school systems,” Reynolds said. “It’s important that we shine a spotlight on the issue of evictions and the impact that it has on our children. We’re trying to educate the public about the consequences of housing policy.”

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