Number of homeless students in Washington tops 30,000

Sunday, March 2, 2014

From OSPI - Office of the Superintendent of Public Education

For the sixth year in a row, the number of homeless students in Washington state has increased.

Numbers released recently by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction show that 30,609 students were counted as homeless. The number is an 11.8 percent increase from 2011-12 and a 47.3 increase from 2007-08.

Collecting and reporting homeless numbers is a requirement of the federal McKinney- Vento Act, which applies to all homeless children and youth.

Specific reasons for the increase are difficult to determine at the state level. Many community factors – such as lack of housing options, a major employer moving out of a region, the local job market – may contribute.

The McKinney-Vento Act ensures that homeless children have access to “the same free, appropriate public education, including a public preschool education, as provided to other children and youths.”

The lack of a stable home puts tremendous pressure on homeless students. Mobility rates are higher than students in homes, absentee rates are higher, health problems are more prevalent and graduation rates are lower.

McKinney-Vento defines a student as homeless if he or she lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. In practical terms, the student is classified as homeless if he or she lives in:
  • Emergency or transitional shelters;
  • Motels, hotels, trailer parks or camping grounds;
  • Shared housing due to loss of housing or economic hardship;
  • Hospitals secondary to abandonment or awaiting foster care placement;
  • Cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing or similar situations; or
  • Public or private places not ordinarily used as sleeping accommodations for human beings.

Districts are required to annually report their homeless student numbers based on the McKinney-Vento definition.

The law requires that homeless students be given the same access to education as other students and cannot be separated from other students. Where feasible, the student can remain in the district he or she was in before becoming homeless and is provided transportation to and from school.

Washington state receives about $950,000 per year from the federal government to help homeless students. That money is given to districts in the form of competitive grants, with money going to districts with the greatest need.

The money can be used for a variety of activities for homeless students, including: helping to defray the excess cost of transportation; tutoring, instruction and enriched educational services; supplies and materials; and early childhood education programs. Districts that do not receive McKinney-Vento grant funding can use Title I or other state or federal funding sources to support the educational needs of homeless students.

All districts are required to have a homeless liaison, who is tasked with identifying, enrolling and setting up services for homeless students.

Homeless students in Washington state
  • 2008-09:  20,780
  • 2009-10:  21,826
  • 2010-11:  26,049
  • 2011-12:  27,390
  • 2012-13:  30,609
For more information
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K–12 education in Washington state. Led by State School Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine educational service districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.


Anonymous,  March 2, 2014 at 7:27 PM  

Over 30,000 homeless students, yet the US Dept of Education would rather hold funds hostage over teacher evaluations being tied to unreliable student test scores. Why doesn't the DOE spend more money on homeless students rather than forcing states and districts to spend more money complying with ridiculous testing requirements? Is a homeless student going to test well? Probably not. But it's OK to grade a teacher on those scores even though the teacher has absolutely no control over whether that child gets a meal, gets the proper amount of sleep, gets medical care, has glasses/hearing aids if needed.... Makes perfect sense. What a crock.

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