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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: homelessness

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December 23, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Homeless students: More each year and younger than you think

Homeless kids aren’t only in big cities. Map courtesy CLS.

You could see them every day and never know it. They might be sitting next to your son in math class, or singing alongside your daughter in the holiday pageant.

An estimated 30,600 kids in Washington’s public schools — or about one child per classroom — do not have a stable place to sleep when they leave each day, according to data released last week by Columbia Legal Services. And because of the stigma involved, many more homeless youth might not let anyone know.

“I never talked to an adult when I was homeless,” said Trai Williams, who spent 10 years on the streets, starting at age 13, and now does outreach through the Mockingbird Society Youth Network.

Williams reflects one of the more troubling aspects of this research: the majority of homeless students are under 14, and overall their numbers are growing. Between 2006-07 and 2012-13, the total population of homeless kids nearly doubled in Washington. Part of the increase was due to the recession, researchers suggest, the rest to more accurate counting.

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Comments | Topics: homelessness

September 24, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Number of homeless schoolchildren rising

The number of homeless children  in Washington’s public schools rose 12 percent between the school years ending in 2012 and 2013.

The total climbed to 30,609 students, exceeding the total enrollment of Tacoma’s school system, the state’s second largest district.

National data released this week by the U.S. Department of Education show an 8 percent increase for the same period, reaching a total of about 1.2 million children without a regular place to sleep at night.

Washington state education officials can’t say why Washington increased more than the nation (34 states and the District of Columbia report yearly figures) as a whole, but many factors contribute to homelessness, including changes in the availability of affordable housing, job opportunities and local social services.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: homelessness, McKinney-Vento

July 15, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Moving money instead of students could save big bucks, lawyers say

You may not know them, but they’re there, in your schools, every day.

Since 2006, the number of homeless students in Washington has surged — from 16,850 eight years ago, to more than 30,600 today. They’re living in shelters, shuttling between the homes of friends or relatives — a week here, a month there — or waiting to be placed in foster care.

For these kids, school can provide an essential lifeline of comparative stability, which was the thinking behind the 1987 McKinney-Vento law. The federal legislation allows kids to stay enrolled in their neighborhood school, even as their lives outside send them hither and yon. The law also says that districts must pay to transport homeless students from wherever they’re living back to school — no matter how far.

To pay for this, Washington gets a paltry $950,000 every three years, which districts must divide, though it hardly covers the full expense. Seattle alone spent $1.2 million to transport homeless students in 2012; Tacoma, more than $1.5 million. Statewide, the full tab was nearly $17 million.

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