Tacoma Housing Authority's Education Project
THA's Education Project has two main purposes:
It seeks to help the children it houses succeed in school.
- It seeks to promote the success of the schools serving low-income students.
THA seeks these outcomes for three reasons.
First, THA's strategic mission is to help people succeed not just as tenants but also as “parents, students, wage earners and builders of assets who can live without assistance.” THA wants families to come to its housing and prosper. In this way, it wants their time with THA to be transforming and temporary. It wants this especially for the children. School success is part of this transformation.
Second, THA is a real estate and community developer. The financial and social success of its developments requires successful neighborhood schools.
Third, public schools face challenges that low-income and homeless children bring to the classroom. The schools cannot solve this without help. THA seeks to do its part.
The Education Project is an experiment to learn if a housing authority can so spend its housing dollars, not only to house families, but also to promote school outcomes for their children and to promote the success of schools that serve low-income children. THA begins this experiment surmising that it does have an influence to exercise. This surmise arises from facts that are true for most public housing authorities:
Except for the school district and the public assistance agency, THA serves more poor children than any other organization in Tacoma. It houses about 1 of every 7 Tacoma public school students and about 1 out of every 4.5 low-income students.
In serving these families, THA is already deep into their lives, as landlord, provider of highly regulated rental assistance, and provider of supportive services. This gives THA an influence over behavior and choices.
THA owns communities that can be staging grounds for educational initiatives.
- THA resources can lever reforms and investments from schools districts and others.
THA tries this experiment in full partnership with Tacoma Public Schools (TPS), Tacoma Community College and other service providers and funders. The results should be interesting to other public housing authorities, school districts and educational institutions.