Undercounting Homeless Students

The 1987 McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act (expanded in 2021) provides federal aid for homeless Americans, including for emergency shelter.

Homeless children are entitled to free transportation to and from schools they were enrolled in prior to becoming homeless — including for participation in extracurricular activities.

Schools are required to register homeless students.

Local school districts must appoint education liaisons to make school staff aware of rights to which homeless children are entitled.

Districts must refer homeless families to healthcare and housing services.

A child or youth who lacks “a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence” is considered homeless.

Included are those sharing housing after losing their own because of economic hardships.

So are others in shelters or transitional housing, individuals who sleep in cars, parks, abandoned buildings or substandard housing.

McKinney–Vento legislation imposes no time limit on help for homeless children and youths up to age-21.

Its benefits include tutoring or other academic support and basic school supplies.

According to a Center for Public Integrity (CPI) analysis, nearly one-fourth (about 2,400) of over 10,000 local US education agencies reported no homeless students in recent years — “despite levels of financial need that make those figures improbable.”

Thousands more districts “are likely undercounting the number of homeless students they do identify,” the CPI analysis found, adding: 

“(T)allies of student homelessness (in nearly half of US states) bear no relationship (to) poverty, a sign of just how inconsistent the identification of kids with unstable housing can be.”

Washington DC-based SchoolHouse Connection head, Barbara Duffield, called homeless children and youths “a largely invisible population,” adding:

“The national conversation on homelessness is focused on single adults who are very visible in large urban areas.”

It is not focused on children, youth and families.”

“It is not focused on education.”

For a child or adolescent, becoming homeless is a critical time in their lives.

“That’s why schools are required to provide extra support,” the CPI stressed.

The graduation rate for homeless students is lower than the national average.

It compromises their development and job opportunities.

It increases their risk of becoming homeless as an adult.

Black, Latino, Native American and Native Alaskan homelessness is disproportionately higher than for white children and youths.

It’s higher among students with disabilities.

Despite what federal law requires, many homeless students remain “unhoused and uncounted,” according to the CPI’s analysis.

Hundreds of thousands “f(ell) through the cracks” and aren’t helped.

During the 2017-18 school year, an estimated 1.5 million students were homeless during at least part of the period, according to federal data.

At any moment in time, the CPI estimates around 300,000 homeless students.

Too often not applied, it takes effort at the community level to identify the homeless and provide them with what’s federally authorized and mandated.

In 2021, billions of dollars in congressionally authorized flu/covid related funds included $800 million for homeless students.

Yet last March, NBC News reported the following:

“Many who participated in what prosecutors are calling the largest fraud in US history — the theft of hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer money intended to help those harmed by (kill shots and all else flu-renamed covid) — couldn’t resist purchasing luxury automobiles.”

“Also mansions, private jet flights and swanky vacations.”

Justice Department Inspector General in charge of overseeing disbursements of flu/covid related funds, Michael Horowitz, said so-called relief programs “were structured (to) ma(ke) them ripe for plunder” — including from what was intended to help homeless students.

On Dec. 7, the CPI said it’s “the only national investigative newsroom solely focusing on the causes and effects of inequality.”

Doing it properly takes “time, resources and expertise.”

It requires methods used by social scientists to analyze issues.

The CPI used them in preparing its “Unhoused and Undercounted” report.

When homeless students aren’t counted, they lose out on federally authorized and mandated benefits.

Advocates for the homeless want them made visible by identifying them.

Federal law requires school districts to help homeless students stay in classrooms.

Enforcing it should be prioritized nationwide.


2 thoughts on “Undercounting Homeless Students

Add yours

  1. “Think of the children” does not mean think of the children and the protection racket is really only concerned with protecting the racket. And of course, education isn’t education either.


  2. US is an extremely capitalistic country where profits prioritize over humanitarian need in all aspects of society.
    Eventually this evil empire will implode as it resorts to tyrannical implementation on its citizens.


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