CCH applauds Gov. Quinn’s decision to include $3 million in his proposed FY15 education budget to provide tutoring, transportation, and support services for homeless children and teens to help them succeed in school.
This funding has not been included in the state budget since FY09, when grants were provided to 36 school districts throughout the state. Since that time, the number of homeless students has risen 109%, to a record 54,892 students last school year.
CCH ran a statewide survey in December that asked school districts and Regional Offices of Education to respond about the level of services reaching students identified as homeless students. Key findings included:
• 52% responded that more than half of their homeless students do not receive needed tutoring or access to preschool.
• 56% said that less than half of homeless students received counseling
• 44% said their staffing capacity to identify and enroll homeless students is limited or very limited
• 21% responded that less than half of homeless students get transportation assistance to get to and from school
“Homeless students have a right to receive these supports under federal law, but without greater funding, school districts won’t provide the services at the level they are needed,” said Rene Heybach, director of the CCH Law Project. “We sincerely hope that the legislature will include this funding in the final budget this year. It is an investment well worth making, even in a tight budget year.”
When Illinois funded $3 million for homeless education in FY09, Township High School District 211 in northwestern Cook County used part of its $34,000 grant to name a point person in each school building and reach out to students and families. The number of identified homeless students more than doubled in the year following the grant.
Similarly, Chicago Public Schools used the additional state funds to increase staff. Youth workers reached out to homeless high school students who were in danger of dropping out. That year they were able to increase the graduation rates of homeless students from 72% to 84%.