Washington has one of the highest levels of homeless students in the nation. And in a three-year span, when the number of homeless students in Washington grew by 30 percent, the amount of federal funding provided to help those students only increased by 8 percent.
Those findings are part of an annual report by the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness (ICPH), which analyzed each state’s homeless-student population. Though the data is from the 2014-15 school year, it provides a snapshot into where homeless students live and how they perform compared with their classmates.
Data from Washington show that this state’s homeless-student population continues to grow. In the 2015-16 school year, nearly 40,000 students were homeless, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. In 2014-15, it was about 35,500.
“We cannot afford to ignore the complex challenges faced by homeless children and their families,” said Dr. Ralph da Costa Nunez, president of ICPH, in a news release. “Unless we enact common-sense public policies that address the educational and economic needs of homeless families, today’s homeless children may become tomorrow’s homeless parents.”
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Among the report’s findings:
▪ Washington had the eighth-highest number of homeless students and the ninth-highest rate of homeless students among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
▪ Four school districts – Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane and Highline – had more than 1,000 homeless students. In 10 school districts, more than 20 percent of the students were homeless.
▪ The average rate for homeless students identified as having a disability was 20 percent, nearly double the rate of their classmates. In three school districts – Nine Mile Falls in Eastern Washington, and Camas and Trout Lake in Southern Washington – almost half of all homeless students were identified as having a disability.
▪ Students were spread proportionately among cities, suburbs, towns and rural areas. About 43 percent lived in urban school districts.
Under the federal McKinney-Vento Act, a student is considered homeless if he or she lacks a fixed, regular and adequate place to sleep at night. The state receives about $950,000 per year from the U.S. Department of Education to help homeless students by paying for things like transportation, tutoring and school supplies.