Number of Homeless Students Continues to Climb
OLYMPIA — February 2, 2016 — Having a consistent and safe place to sleep at night is little more than a dream to many children.
Numbers released today by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction show that in 2014-15, 35,511 Washington students – 3.3 percent of the state’s public P-12 population – were counted as homeless. The number is a 9.1 percent increase from 2013-14 and a 62.7 percent increase from 2009-10.
“These kids sleep in campgrounds or under highways or on friends’ sofas,” said Randy Dorn, superintendent of public instruction. “And that can lead to them repeating grades or dropping out of school. We must make sure that school can be a stable influence in their lives and that they don’t fall behind.”
The federal McKinney-Vento Act ensures that homeless children have access to “the same free, appropriate public education, including a public preschool education, as provided to other children and youths.”
Specific reasons for the increase are difficult to determine at the state level. Many community factors – lack of affordable housing options, unemployment or under-employment, available local services – may contribute. In addition, economic recessions typically hit the poorest people the longest.
McKinney-Vento defines a student as homeless if he or she lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. The law requires that homeless students be given the same access to education as other students and cannot be separated from other students. Where feasible, the student can remain in the district he or she was in before becoming homeless and is provided transportation to and from school.
Washington state receives about $950,000 per year from the federal government to help homeless students. That money is given to districts in the form of competitive grants, with money going to districts with the greatest need.
The money can be used for a variety of activities for homeless students, including: helping to defray the excess cost of transportation; tutoring, instruction and enriched educational services; supplies and materials; and early childhood education programs. Districts that do not receive McKinney-Vento grant funding can use Title I or other state or federal funding sources to support the educational needs of homeless students.
All districts are required to have a homeless liaison, who is tasked with identifying, enrolling and setting up services for homeless students.
The four-year graduation rate for homeless students in the Class of 2015 was 51.9 percent; for all students, it was 78.1 percent.
For more information
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K–12 education in Washington state. Led by State School Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine educational service districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.
OSPI provides equal access to all programs and services without discrimination based on sex, race, creed, religion, color, national origin, age, honorably discharged veteran or military status, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability. Questions and complaints of alleged discrimination should be directed to the Equity and Civil Rights Director at (360) 725-6162 or P.O. Box 47200, Olympia, WA 98504-7200.
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