Obama, Feds Look to Support 1.3 Million Homeless Students

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

Schools across the nation will be back in session soon, with millions of students returning to their classrooms — but some students need a bit more support. The US Department of Education has released guidelines to direct states and school districts on the best practices to serve the particular needs of homeless pupils.

The guidance is related to new federal provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act that focus on actions used to provide safety and balance for young people who are homeless. In the 2013-2014 academic year, over 1.3 million students in the country did not have homes, says Joe Heim of The Washington Post.

“Homeless children and youth face a number of barriers to getting the education they deserve and the services they need to succeed in school and beyond,” U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. said in a statement. “It is our hope that the guidance we are releasing today will serve as a tool to help states and districts better serve homeless children and youth – we can and we must do better.”

The guidelines address changes in the new Act and will assist states and districts to understand and implement requirements in the reauthorized McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth program (MVEHCY).

The provisions will include direction on how to identify homeless students, and how to coordinate communication between schools and other social service providers. They will also include how to protect the privacy of students’ records and approaches to increasing college and career opportunities.

The Education Department states that homelessness is associated with lower academic achievement, increased drop-out rates, academic slippage, and significant socio-emotional, social, and academic challenges.

Other amendments to the MVEHCY include removing enrollment barriers; improving the dispute resolution process for decisions relating to students’ educational placement; and authorizing local liaisons to verify the eligibility for HUD homeless assistance programs.

President Obama’s fiscal year 2017 budget calls for a 21% increase to the Education for Homeless Children and Youth program.

Levi Bohanan was homeless when he was a young teenager because his mother and father had thrown him out because he was gay.

“The biggest fight every day wasn’t how I was going to survive, it was deciding whether or not I wanted to,” Bohanan, now 23, tells ABC News.

Today, Bohanan works with the country’s top experts in the field of education at the US Department of Education as a special projects manager for the Secretary of Education. The guidelines will become official on October 1, 2016.

Mariam Khan of ABC News reports that the guidance regulations prioritize identifying homeless students and include the designation of “school liaison” for each school district to give young people help with career development and college readiness.

Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. said his youth was filled with unpredictability, but he added that he discovered that “school can save lives.”

The high mobility involved with being homeless means that these young ones attend many different schools. The new guidance will allow older students who have moved frequently to get partial credit for work they have done in other schools.

Bohanan said he works in a Department that works on projects that impact the lives of pupils every day in a positive way.