Youth attorney named to new Illinois school attendance commission

Law Project Associate Director Beth Malik has been appointed by the Illinois Governor’s Office to the new Illinois (School) Attendance Commission.

The commission was created by legislators to work with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to recommend strategies to improve attendance and prevent chronic student absenteeism.CCH Logo

The commission is comprised of various stakeholders, including representatives from ISBE, other state agencies and education advocates. Beth was appointed to represent the interests of students and families who cope with “temporary living situations” due to homelessness.

Last school year, Illinois school districts identified more than 54,000 homeless students, with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) identifying more than 20,000. Many more students are not identified and therefore, not receiving services that may address attendance issues that they may have. 

Under the federal McKinney-Vento Act, school districts must address barriers to the enrollment, attendance and success of homeless students. There are often many barriers to regular school attendance, so homeless students suffer from higher rates of absenteeism than their peers.

One barrier can be access to transportation to get to and from school. The Law Project recently advocated successfully on behalf of a CPS freshman who needed transportation assistance. As an unaccompanied youth living further from school, it became difficult for him to get to school on time, causing his attendance to drop off sharply.

The Attendance Commission will issue annual reports and regularly hold public meetings across the state. More information is available on the ISBE website.