By Patricia Nix-Hodes, Associate Director of the Law Project
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), under the leadership of Board Chairman Gery Chico, voted last week to restore $3 million in homeless education funding in its FY15 budget request.
The funding would provide grants to schools to support services to homeless students. A record 51,638 students experienced homelessness in Illinois last school year– a 93% increase from FY09, when $3 million in homeless education funding was last included in Illinois’ budget. At its meeting last week, ISBE board members noted that the need is great in all areas of the state.
Prior to the ISBE vote, staff of the CCH Law Project testified that this funding is critical to support school services to homeless students, and asked ISBE to make homeless education funding a priority throughout the budget process. The Law Project and others supporting homeless education funding, also testified at a Chicago hearing on the ISBE budget held in November.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Charlie’s Law, the Illinois Education for Homeless Children Act. The law has been very successful in removing barriers to the enrollment, attendance and success of homeless students statewide. However, increasing need and decreasing funding limit the law’s effectiveness.
Homeless education funding would provide needed services to students including:
- Social workers and homeless liaisons to identify youth, ensure immediate enrollment and reduce truancy.
- Academic support, such as tutoring, summer school, credit recovery and preschool access.
- Transportation for homeless students to enable them to continue attending the same school and to participate in all school activities.
- Coordination with community resources, such as health, housing and employment services.
The next step in the budget process is the release of Governor Quinn’s budget proposal on Feb. 19. In December, CCH delivered more than 900 letters to the governor urging the restoration of $3 million in homeless education funding. CCH will continue its advocacy with the governor and Illinois Legislature to ensure that the needs of homeless students are met.