The Condition of Education 2017

For Knowledge… You should Know that Peace is an Indispensable Condition of Getting It – Ancient Khemetic Proverb

The Condition of Education 2017 Full Report

Homeless Children and Youth in Public Schools

In 2014–15, some 2.5 percent of students in U.S. public elementary and secondary schools were reported as homeless children or youth (1.3 million students). This percentage varied from 2.0 percent in suburban school districts to 2.4 percent in rural districts, 2.6 percent in town districts, and 3.7 percent in city districts. The largest numbers of homeless students were enrolled in city (578,000 students) and suburban districts (422,000 students), compared to rural (149,000 students) and town districts (139,000 students).

Research has shown that children experiencing homelessness face a range of challenges related to their health, emotional well-being, and safety. Unstable housing situations may lead to increased rates of transfer among public schools, resulting in further disruptions to the education of homeless students. The U.S. Department of Education collects data on homeless students under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987. This authority was recently renewed under the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015. The McKinney-Vento Act requires that school districts identify students who are experiencing homelessness and guarantees their right to enroll in public schools and access educational and transportation services. Under this law, states report data to the Department of Education on the number of homeless students enrolled in public schools, as well as the characteristics of these students. Under the McKinney-Vento Act, students are identified as homeless if they lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.

Students experiencing homelessness may be temporarily doubled up with other families or sharing housing due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or other reasons (such as domestic violence); living in hotels or motels; living in shelters or other forms of temporary housing; or living in unsheltered situations (e.g., living in cars, parks, campgrounds, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailers, or abandoned buildings).

Over time, the capacity of school systems to identify students experiencing homelessness, collect information, and report data to the Department of Education has improved.4 Some of the change over time in the rates of homelessness among public school students may be attributable to improved reporting practices.5 In addition, some of the variation across jurisdictions in the rates of homelessness and the characteristics of homeless students may be related to variation in reporting practices.


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