New Illinois law allows school transportation funds to be reallocated for homeless student housing

By Cydney Salvador, Media Intern

An Illinois bill permitting the use of educational funds to secure housing for homeless children has been signed into law.

House Bill 261 will allow school districts to reallocate funds dedicated to homeless students’ transportation costs to instead pay for housing assistance, rent, and security deposits. CCH endorsed the measure, sponsored by State Rep. Michelle Mussman (D-Schaumburg). Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the bill on August 25.

“We support the idea of a partnership between schools and housing,” said Law Project Director Patricia Nix-Hodes. “It’s a good idea but it needs funding.”

A similar bill (HB1682) enacted by Washington state in 2016 included additional funding for school housing grants. Washington awarded $1.7 million in housing assistance funds in FY17.

State funding of housing efforts can provide schools with the support needed to allot funds toward homeless students. Without creating a separate source for funds, schools often do not have the money needed to effectively aid its students, Nix-Hodes said.

The only year that the Illinois state budget funded homeless school programs was in FY09. CCH successfully advocated for $3 million in grant funding, later awarded to 36 school districts.

“For the law to serve the greatest number of people, resources and funding should be allocated,” Nix-Hodes said.