Minneapolis should adjust funding program to help more families

The coronavirus pandemic has required our country, states and cities to issue emergency relief packages to help support families during this crisis.

In Minneapolis, Mayor Jacob Frey announced a $5 million relief package for residents and businesses struggling financially because of COVID-19. One million dollars within the city’s “Stable Homes Stable Schools” program will assist families (up to $1,500) experiencing homelessness or housing instability during the pandemic.

But only if those families have a student attending Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS).

According to Matthew Shaver, a middle school teacher at a charter school in Minneapolis, a pandemic crisis is not the “time to play politics about districts and charter schools” and “punish” families for choosing either a charter school or to open-enroll children in another district.

A family experiencing a housing emergency in Minneapolis with a child in elementary school is worthy of this funding regardless of where that child goes to school. It would be one thing if MPS was using its own money to fund the program, but this money comes from the city of Minneapolis and federal funding through the MPHA [Minneapolis Public Housing Authority].

Just over 32 percent of elementary students experiencing homelessness attend Minneapolis charter schools (and have families who are likely to meet the income threshold the program requires), but these families are excluded from the emergency fund for choosing a learning environment that works best for their child. Across the river in St. Paul, a similar relief package was proposed by Mayor Melvin Carter with similar stipulations: a student enrolled in St. Paul Public schools.

However, the St. Paul community pushed back against the eligibility requirement, and it was adjusted to help more families and vulnerable children. Shaver calls on the city of Minneapolis to follow suit.

Rather than give each MPS family $1,500, we can give each MPS family, and each charter family, $1,000 for a total cost of $923,000, leaving $77,000 (and the opportunity to help 77 more families). This is a slam-dunk and equitable thing to do.

We can get back to arguing about charter schools and district schools after this pandemic passes. For now, let’s do the right thing and help all families living in Minneapolis experiencing homelessness.