Austin is training staff to help parents find affordable housing so that kids don’t have to switch schools

Erin Richards:

Almost one in five students in Austin switch schools in the middle of the year, state figures show. Worse, most of the churn is happening at schools that are already struggling. Research shows the instability also harms the progress of kids who stay put, likely because teachers must repeat material.

This pattern plays out in urban districts across the nation, especially in cities with high poverty, a high cost of living or lots of school choice — or some combination of all three.

But Austin is one of the nation’s only districts employing a comprehensive approach to stemming turnover. In the past two years, the district has trained key staff members at all schools on how to help parents search for nearby affordable housing so that a residential move doesn’t also become a school switch in the middle of the academic year.

“This is a way to provide more stability for our families,” said Austin Superintendent Paul Cruz. “We’re not sending parents to multiple places for housing information. It’s basically, we’ll help you locate a place and say how much it’s going to cost you and this is what the deposit is — it’s almost like a prescreening.”