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Homeless Students in Tennessee Public Schools

 

Written by Kim Potts

Tennessee ComptrollerNashville, TN – Since the start of the nation’s economic downturn in late 2007, the number of homeless students in public schools has significantly increased both nationally and in Tennessee.

Between the 2006–07 and 2009–10 school years, the number of homeless students identified in public schools increased by about 38 percent nationally (from 679,724 students to 939,903 students).

In Tennessee, the number of homeless students in public schools increased by about 74 percent during the same period, from 6,565 students in the 2006–07 school year to 11,458 in 2009–10.

The increases may in part be a consequence of job losses and other difficulties related to the economy that have affected families, but may also result from some school districts’ improved efforts to identify homeless students.

This legislative brief describes the federal requirements under the McKinney-Vento Act for states, school districts, and schools concerning the education of homeless children and youth; the effects of homelessness on children and youths’ education, as well as effects for districts and schools; and some characteristics of children and youth in Tennessee who are homeless and enrolled in Tennessee schools, including their academic achievement.

Key Points

The federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (McKinney-Vento), originally signed into law in 1987 by President Reagan, places certain requirements on states and school districts to ensure that each homeless child and youth has access to the same public educational services as other children and youth.

The law defines “homeless children and youth” as individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.

McKinney-Vento addresses some of the problems that homeless children and youth have confronted in enrolling, attending, and succeeding in school. In states that have accepted McKinney-Vento funding, the law requires that all school districts:

  • Appoint a local homeless education coordinator, part of whose responsibility is to ensure that school personnel identify homeless children and youth;
  • Admit homeless students to school immediately, even if they are unable to provide documents typically required for enrollment;
  • Keep homeless students in the schools they originally attended when they were housed, to the extent possible; and
  • Provide transportation to help homeless students remain in their original schools.

The number of homeless students identified in K–12 public schools increased significantly between the 2006–07 and 2009–10 school years, both nationally (by 38 percent) and in Tennessee (by 74 percent). The increases may in part be a consequence of job losses and other difficulties related to the economy that have affected families, but may also result from some school districts’ improved efforts to identify homeless students.

The U.S. Department of Education awards McKinney-Vento funds annually to states by formula. In 2011, Tennessee received $1,227,251 out of a total national allocation of $65,296,146 for the McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youths program.

The Tennessee Department of Education awarded $920,438 in McKinney-Vento subgrants to 13 school districts and retained $306,813 for state activities, which include staff compensation, training, monitoring, and administrative costs. All school districts in Tennessee are required to comply with the law’s requirements.

Some school districts in Tennessee have identified no homeless students and may not be in compliance with McKinney-Vento requirements.

 


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