|Early Figures Indicate Nearly 25 Percent Jump in Homeless Students Last School Year|
|Written by Ryan Gray|
|Thursday, 04 February 2010 09:22|
A policy brief released last week shows the number of homeless students in 26 states grew by 24 percent during the 2008-2009 school year, which is leading to increased challenges in transporting them to their home school.
The National Association for Educating Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) and First Focus Campaign for Children issued a brief that serves as the impetus for requesting $100 million for the federal McKinney-Vento Act in the current jobs bill. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act gave McKinney-Vento a $70 million shot in the arm last year, resulting in saving or creating nearly 3,300 jobs. The report said at least that many jobs would be saved or created with the latest request, either through the Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program, or through a set-aside in the education portion of the jobs bill.
The current jobs bill, which passed the House last year, remains stuck in the Senate.
Each year, the U.S. Department of Education requires under McKinney-Vento that states report data on the number of homeless students. Barbara Duffield, the executive director of NAEHCY and a co-author of the brief, said DOE will not release the data for all 50 states until this spring, at which time it might be too late for lobbying efforts. So, she and Phillip Lovell of First Focus, reported the data that was obtainable from 26 states that she said represented a good mix of urban and rural communities.
Her and Lovell's report, "Creating Jobs and Supporting Homeless Students," found that the number of homeless students in those states rose by 127,329 in the 2008-2009 school year from the one prior, a growth of 24 percent. Additionally, the number of homeless students rose by 50 percent since the start of the so-called "Great Recession" in 2007. Meanwhile, one out of five school districts responding to a national survey (330 out of 1,716 school districts) reported enrolling more homeless students by Thanksgiving of 2008 than they enrolled during the entire previous school year. These school districts enrolled 31,000 homeless students during the 2007-2008 school year. By Thanksgiving, they enrolled 41,000 homeless students, an increase of 10,000 in just the first few months of the school year.
The result is a "double whammy" of more children to serve amid shrinking state budgets, said Duffield. And transportation services are in peril.
"It's logistically challenging to find ways to keep kids stable in their same schools, and there is also the price tag," she added. "With the rising number of children who are homeless, school districts are struggling to keep with the law."
The McKinney-Vento Act became law in 1986 and requires school districts to do everything in their power to ensure homeless students have the option of remaining in their schools of origin until the end of any academic year in which they are moving into permanent housing. This means school transportation services must be provided, no matter how far a student's current shelter might be from the original school.
Many of the 3,300 jobs that could be saved or created, like with ARRA last year, are for homeless transportation coordinators. At the annual NASDPTS conference in Louisville last fall, Duffield highlighted several school districts across the nation that have used stimulus funds to hire transportation coordinators, such as in Fairfax, Va., and St. Paul, Minn. The requested $100 million in the jobs bill could also go toward hiring homeless student liasions, school social workers, outreach workers, and educational assistants who could help identify more homeless students and keep them in school. This could also drive efficiencies in transportation, Duffield said.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 04 February 2010 10:46|