This Guest Post was written by Phillip Lovell from First Focus and Barbara Duffield from the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.
Barely a day goes by without a front page story covering some aspect of the recession. Much of what we read hits on the economic nature of the crisis; much less attention has been paid to the impact of the economic downturn on children.
Policymakers are finally noticing the recession's impact on children. Last summer, Congress passed major legislation-The Housing and Economic Recovery Act-that dedicated two (out of 261) pages to addressing the needs of children who have become homeless due to the foreclosure crisis. More recently, the economic stimulus package, otherwise known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, includes millions in funding for school districts to help keep children and youth in school even if they lose their homes. These funds are provided through The McKinney-Vento Act's Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program.
EHCY provides stability for children whose lives are fraught with uncertainty. It allows homeless students to stay at their "home" school even if their temporary living situation is outside the school district or attendance area, provided that it is in their best interest to do so. School districts must provide transportation to school, and students must be enrolled immediately in school even if they cannot produce documentation typically required (birth certificates, proof of guardianship, etc.).
EHCY provides a small amount of funding to states and school districts to support the implementation of these policies. These funds are distributed to states that then provide competitive subgrants to school districts. States and school districts use these dollars to ensure that more young people experiencing homelessness stay enrolled in and attend school, while also supporting their academic success. EHCY funds are used for transportation services to school, after-school programs, school supplies, and homeless liaisons who identify, enroll, and connect homeless students with services in the community. During the 2006-07 school year, the Department of Education identified and enrolled 679,724 homeless students through EHCY efforts.
Funding for EHCY has increased very modestly in nominal terms over the past five years, from $60 million in fiscal year 2004 to $64 million in fiscal year 2008. Adjusted for inflation, the program funding has decreased by 6 percent over this period. In fiscal year 2009, the program is slated to receive just over $65 million. At this funding level, only 6 percent of the nation's school districts can expect to receive EHCY funding in 2009.
Needless to say, the economic and foreclosure crises have increased the need for EHCY. We estimate that 2 million children will be directly affected by the foreclosure crisis, and school districts across the country are reporting spikes in their homeless student populations due to job loss and other factors tied to the economic downturn. Last year, over 450 school districts had at least a 25 percent increase in homeless students. In the first few months of this school year, 330 school districts reported enrolling more homeless students than they did all of last year.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes $70 million for EHCY in 2009 and 2010 - increasing the program's annual appropriation significantly. These dollars will be distributed to States in relation to their population of homeless students, and will be distributed by States to school districts either by competition or by formula.
This is good news for school districts, homeless students, and our country. Students experiencing high levels of mobility or homelessness are more likely to perform below grade level or repeat a grade, and less likely to graduate high school on time. They are more likely to have health and other social and emotional problems as well. EHCY helps to mitigate the detrimental effect homelessness has on children and youth.
EHCY helps to make sure that all of our young people, including those who are most vulnerable, have the opportunity to go to school and become productive members of society. All of our children deserve an education. And right now, we cannot afford to miss the opportunity to educate all of our children, positioning them-and our country-for a successful future.