July 27, 2010
Funding To Support School-based Services for Homeless Children Hangs In Peril
Washington D.C. – Today, a new brief reveals that due to the economic crisis, the number of homeless students attending our nation’s schools has increased for the second year in a row, resulting in a 41% increase over just the past two years. The brief also demonstrates that funding provided through the federal stimulus legislation has helped schools respond to the drastic influx of students in need. However, the continued provision of critical services for our neediest students hinges on current congressional budget decisions.
Congress recognized the role of public schools in addressing the impact of the economic downturn on children and families by providing $70 million through the federal stimulus legislation, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, for the McKinney-Vento Act’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program. The increased funding more than doubled the EHCY’s appropriation, allowing more school districts to receive funding to assist homeless children and youth and spurring innovative strategies for serving the unique needs of this population.
“Schools are uniquely positioned to provide safety, structure, and services for homeless children,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus, a bipartisan child advocacy organization. “Due to the continuation of the economic crisis, it is imperative that Congress maintain the increased investments in programs assisting homeless children and families. Helping our students stay in school and succeed today will reap long-term gains in the future. After all, an education is the surest path to economic security and stable housing in adulthood.”
The recommendations outlined in the brief call for Congress to provide at least $140 million for the EHCY program in 2011, which would be the combined amounts of money provided through last year’s stimulus legislation and the regular EHCY appropriation. This funding would allow school districts to continue a minimal level of support to ensure that children and youth who lose their housing do not also lose access to school.
The brief also contains findings from a national survey, analyzing responses from over 2,200 school districts.
“School district homeless liaisons designated under the McKinney-Vento Act are witnessing the impact of the economic downturn on families, children, youth, and communities,” said Barbara Duffield, policy director of the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, a grassroots membership association. “At the same time, many liaisons have been able to implement innovative programming to meet increasing needs. This assistance must be continued to ensure that homeless children and youth can stay in school and learn, despite their living situations,”