1. Opinion

St. Pete has too many homeless children. Here’s one solution. | Editorial

The City Council appears poised to help homeless families find places to live more quickly.
Campbell Park Elementary School is one of the seven schools included in St. Petersburg City Council member Steve Kornell's plan to help homeless students in the school system. [SHADD, DIRK  |  Tampa Bay Times]
Campbell Park Elementary School is one of the seven schools included in St. Petersburg City Council member Steve Kornell's plan to help homeless students in the school system. [SHADD, DIRK | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Nov. 15

No child should have to spend the night in a motel, the backseat of a car or worry they may have no place to go when the school day ends. Yet those are daily concerns for an astounding number of Pinellas County students. St. Petersburg City Council member Steve Kornell has made a smart push to provide more options for those kids at a handful of public schools in the city, and it should not be too difficult to move from concept to action.

Kornell’s proposal, informed by his experiences as a school social worker, aims to better secure housing for homeless students in the school system. More than 4 percent of the Pinellas School District’s 101,000 students -- 4,372 -- were considered homeless during the last school year. Kornell wants to create an experimental program that focuses on seven Pinellas schools with a high portion of poor families, such as Campbell Park and Fairmount Park elementary schools. The city would dedicate money to hire a coordinator who could manage the program and work with families to navigate the bureaucratic housing system. That would ideally get them placed in housing far sooner than if they search for help on their own.

Nothing shows the need for a program like this more than the numbers. More than 10 percent of students were considered homeless last school year at five of the seven schools that would be the focus of the experiment. Topping the charts, about 18 percent of students at Maximo Elementary—or 93 of 519 students—were defined as homeless last school year. That means these students were either coming home to a shelter, a hotel or motel, sharing housing with large numbers of people or living in an abandoned building, a park or a public space.

Besides making life difficult outside school, being homeless affects students’ academic performance. One study of Florida students found homeless students less frequently passed English Language Arts, math and science tests than other students who receive free or reduced lunch and those who received full price lunch. These children deserve an opportunity at academic success just as much as students lucky enough to have been born into a family with the ability to secure and retain a permanent home.

A City Council committee this week recommended allocating $275,000 of city money to the Pinellas County Homeless Leadership Board. The homeless board would then use $25,000 of those funds to request proposals from organizations interested in providing the help Kornell envisions. The full City Council should approve this modest investment in tackling a significant problem, and if the program is successful it can be expanded later to more schools.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Tim Nickens, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.


  1. A simplified version of the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution hangs prominently in Dawn Brown's classroom at Crews Lake Middle.  [JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK | Times]
    Here’s what readers had to say in Thursday’s letters to the editor.
  2. Yesterday• Opinion
    Mexico's Treasury Secretary Arturo Herrera, left, Deputy Prime Minister of Canada Chrystia Freeland, second left, Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, center, Mexico's top trade negotiator Jesus Seade, second right, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, hold the documents after signing an update to the North American Free Trade Agreement, at the national palace in Mexico City on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte) [MARCO UGARTE  |  AP]
    The new North American trade pact is good for the nation and for Florida.
  3. Dwight D. Eisenhower (center) in front of a grid the SS had fashioned from railway tracks for the purpose of burning the corpses of dead inmates from the mass graves, April 12, 1945 [MOORE, U.S. SIGNAL CORPS  |  National Archives Washington]
    Some things are not up for debate. The Holocaust happened, write two officials from the Florida Holocaust Museum.
  4. There are great programs in Hillsborough public schools to provide free or low-cost breakfast and lunch for students who qualify.
    Proposed changes by the Trump administration would make some students go hungry.
  5. A CH-47 Chinook helicopter takes off after dropping soldiers in Bagh village of Khakeran Valley, Zabul province, Afghanistan. [TOMAS MUNITA  |  AP]
    Here’s what readers had to say in Wedneday’s letters to the editor.
  6. Technology jobs in industries including aerospace are highly coveted. A SpaceX Falcon heavy rocket lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral earlier this year. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
    Five metro areas dominate high-tech employment. There isn’t a Florida city among them.
  7.  [Bill Day --]
  8. Pinellas County tourism officials are selling area beaches in two places that need them most this time of year: NYC and Chicago. [Tampa Tribune]
    Here’s what readers had to say in Tuesday’s letters to the editor.
  9. Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, center, and Navy Adm. Michael Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations, look on as an Air Force carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Navy Seaman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, of St. Petersburg on Sunday at Dover Air Force Base, Del. A Saudi gunman killed three people including Haitham in a shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen) [CLIFF OWEN  |  AP]
    Service members like Mohammed “Mo” Haitham of St. Petersburg should not be at risk of being killed on a base in their home state.