School fee waivers for homeless and low-income students

Now that the school year is coming to a close, students in Illinois look forward to special school activities, including graduation, senior luncheons and field trips.

Every year the Law Project receives many calls from low-income students and families who are being pressured by their schools to pay hundreds of dollars in fees before graduation or year-end.

Yet under state law, many of these fees are required to be waived for students and families unable to afford them, including those who are homeless or low-income.

A student or parent must file a written request to have school fees waived, or for Chicago Public School (CPS) students, fill out a CPS Fee Waiver Form. If a student qualifies for a fee waiver, school officials cannot bar a student from participating in school activities, such as prom or graduation, due to their inability to pay.

To qualify as low-income in CPS, a student or family cannot exceed 130% of the federal poverty guidelines. That includes annual incomes of $15,444 for a single person, $20,826 for a family of 2; $26,208 for a family of 3; and $31,590 for a family of 4.

In suburban and downstate schools, students who qualify for free school meals are eligible for fee waivers.

Some examples of school fees that must be waived for low-income students:

  • Charges for textbooks and instructional materials
  • Fees for field trips taken during school hours, or field trips taken after school hours if the field trip is a required or customary part of a class or school activity. This includes annually scheduled trips such as end-of-the-year or graduation field trips and activities.
  • Graduation fees, including caps and gowns
  • Charges or deposits for uniforms or equipment for sports or fine arts
  • Charges for supplies for a particular class, such as shop or home economics materials, or laboratory or art supplies.
  • Charges and deposits for use of school property, such as locks, towels, and lab equipment.
  • Driver’s education fees
  • Fees to obtain school records and health services

Schools do not have to waive some fees and costs, including ordinary school supplies, class rings, yearbooks, school photos and diploma covers, admission to school dances and athletic events and optional travel. While these fees are not required to be waived, many schools have programs to help students and families with these costs.

The Law Project of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is available to assist students and families seeking school fee waivers.

Families needing information or assistance can call toll-free at 1 (800) 940-1119.

Columbia Chronicle: Housing program finds homes for 100 families

High school student Sonitra Mitchell, 17, said she has been in and out of her grandmother’s house since birth—sometimes living with four different families at a time.

Mitchell is one of the 82,212 homeless people in Chicago, according to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless’ April 19 report for 2015. Of the homeless population, 82 percent identify as doubled-up families-, or families staying with other families.

“There is nowhere that I can call my home,” Mitchell said. “I had to come to school thinking everything was okay, knowing I was in pain and going through [anxiety.]”

According to an April 20 press release from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office, the city will start housing 100 of these families this fall through the new Housing Homeless Families program. The Department of Family and Support Services is partnering with the coalition and the Corporation for Supportive Housing-, –a community housing organization, to provide new permanent housing for families from six public schools in Humboldt Park, Englewood, West Englewood and Austin.

Maura McCauley, DFSS Chicago region director of Homeless Prevention, Policy and Planning, said the goal is for families to receive housing where they can reconnect with their existing support networks or find new ones.

“Homelessness can be a traumatic experience, and we know that housing stability through having your own home contributes to the overall well-being for all people,” McCauley said. “With children, we know that also contributes to educational success.”

The families will be chosen through a “vulnerability index,” which will take many factors into consideration including the ages and number of children, and the physical and mental health of their families, said Julie Dworkin, director of policy at the CCH. Those who receive the highest scores during the assessment will be given housing, she added.

For some families, this housing opportunity will mean not having to undergo hardships like having to leave belongings behind when moving into another person’s home or a hotel, Mitchell said.

“It’s been kind of terrible because you have no room, no space and no privacy,” she said. “The only difference between doubled-up [housing] and living in shelters is that you are living with someone that you actually know.”

While Mitchell will not be considered for the program because she lives in West Pullman, this is the first city housing program that will take doubled-up families similar to hers into consideration for housing, Dworkin said.

“Because this program is all locally generated funding, we advocated for them to include the doubled-up families, and [Emanuel] agreed to do that,” Dworkin said. “They are going to be considered for the first time.”

The funding for the program will be a combination of $1 million from the city’s 4 percent Airbnb tax, and $1 million from the Chicago Low Income Housing Trust Fund, according to Dworkin.

Families who are not eligible to receive housing can still be assessed and given other resources and support services, McCauley said.

The department will start meeting with families at the end of the 2016–2017 academic year to inform them about the different resources for which they are eligible, but they will not start assessing families for the housing program until the next academic year, she added.

“We are rolling out this coordinated process to identify families in need, assess them quickly and match them to the appropriate resource,” McCauley said. “I hope the housing is the beginning of a long period of stability.”

Thank You!

Thank you for signing up to learn more about the Associate Board! We’ll be in touch with you soon.

We hope you can join us at our next Associate Board meeting: 

Tuesday, June 13, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless offices: 70 E. Lake St., Suite 720

Tell your U.S. Senators: Jeff Sessions is not qualified to be Attorney General

no-sessionsPlease call your senators and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee with this message: 

Jeff Sessions is not qualified to be Attorney General. Please oppose his nomination.

Sessions’ long record demonstrates hostility to the enforcement of civil rights for people of color, immigrants, and women, including victims of domestic violence, people with disabilities, and the LGBT community.

 

If you live in Illinois, your U.S. Senators are: 

Richard J. Durbin: (202) 224-2152

Tammy Duckworth: (202) 224-2854

You can find your senators contact information HERE if you live outside of Illinois. 

 

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee: 

Grassley, Chuck (R – IA) , Chairman: 202-224-3744

Feinstein, Dianne (D – CA), Ranking Member: (202) 224-3841

Hatch, Orrin G. (R – UT): (202) 224-5251

Graham, Lindsey (R – SC): (202) 224-5972

Cornyn, John (R – TX): (202) 224-2934

Lee, Mike (R – UT): (202) 224-5444

Cruz, Ted (R – TX): (202) 224-5922

Sasse, Ben (R – NE): (202) 224-4224

Flake, Jeff (R – AZ): (202) 224-4521

Crapo, Mike (R – ID): (202) 224-6142

Tillis, Thom (R – NC): (202) 224-6342

Kennedy, John (R – LA): (202) 224-4623

Leahy, Patrick J. (D – VT): (202) 224-4242

Durbin, Richard J. (D – IL): (202) 224-2152

Whitehouse, Sheldon (D – RI): (202) 224-2921

Klobuchar, Amy (D – MN): (202) 224-3244

Franken, Al (D – MN): (202) 224-5641

Coons, Christopher A. (D – DE): (202) 224-5042

Blumenthal, Richard (D – CT): (202) 224-2823

Hirono, Mazie K. (D – HI): (202) 224-6361

How to Help Those Experiencing Homelessness in the Cold

If you are asked for help by someone on the street, you should not hesitate to give them money, food, blankets, or other needed items if you have the means and the desire. We do not think there is any downside to helping people in all of these ways. But more importantly, make sure that whatever interaction you have is positive and respectful. If you cannot or do not want to give anything, you can still make eye contact, smile, and wish someone well. The key is to treat each person with the dignity and respect you would hope for if you were in that situation.

In addition to any immediate support you may decide to give, find organizations that do direct outreach to those experiencing homelessness on Chicago’s streets, provide overnight shelter, and/or permanent affordable housing and support their work. Below are some resources to research nonprofits you could support:

Nonprofits that work with the city of Chicago to address homelessness

Homeless and housing nonprofits throughout Illinois

More resources for the homeless in the cold weather

Riot Fest Drawing Winners

Below is a list of all the winners from our memorabilia drawing at Riot Fest 2016:

2 Tickets to Anthrax – Allison B.*

2 VIP Passes Riot Fest 2017 – Mike H.

Alice Cooper set list – Jessie O.

Andrew McMahon poster – Alex

Andrew W.K. poster – Robert D.*

Ben Folds poster – Michael H.

Blink 182 guitar – Robert B.*

Bullet Tooth album- Jeff P.*

Catfish & The Bottlemen album – Alex

Clutch poster – Jeff*

Corrosion of Conformity album – Jon R.*

Dandy Warhols album – Jon R.*

The Darkness poster – Gina

Deftones package – Laurie M.*

Descendents guitar – Dylan O.

Devil Wears Prada poster – Mike

Disco Demolition book – Lexie

Dropkick Murphys album – Pakledinaz

Everclear poster/package – Monet B.

Fall Out Boy album – Elizabeth S.*

Fat Wreck Chords package – Christine R.*

Fear Factory – Aces S.

Fitz & The Tantrums album – Karl

Flaming Lips alien – Rick

Fratellis album sleeve – Rachel D.

Fu Manchu album – Michael N*

Gary Numan poster – Brad H.

Gwar necklace – Bartt B.*

Gwar skatedeck – Taylor V.

Har Mar Superstar poster – Mike B.*

Hello Kitty Fest custom illustration – Dawn

Hippo Campus album – Jason M.

Jack’s Mannequin album – Travis

John Cusack signed photo – Joseph

Less Thank Jake album – Jon R.*

Los Lobos poster – Carlos

Me First & The Gimme Gimmes album – Chris D.

Naked Raygun guitar – Dem*

Night Riots package – Frank

NOFX package – Ted M.*

North Mississippi Allstars poster – Val

Patti Smith poster – Matt B.

Pepper Bears jersey – Pete O.*

Pixies album – Gia

Prophets of Rage guitar – Jeff

Refused album – Mike B.*

Reverend Horton Heat poster – Brian S.

Riot Fest Speaks 2016 poster – Marc

Rituals poster Rachel D.

Savages poster – Brad

Sleater Kinney album – Jachie

Slightly Stoopid package – Mike B.

Streetlight Manifesto poster – Nathan F.

Suicide Machines poster – Rafael

Superchunk poster – Greg B.

Taking Back Sunday albums – Matt G.

The Darkness poster – Gina

The Vandals album – Robert D.*

Thrice drumhead – Charlie

Todd Rundgren poster – James A.*

Violent Femmes poster – Gia

Violent SoHo t-shirt – Allison

Ween guitar – Nick M.

White Mystery package – Emerson

*Hundred Dollar Club member