California's Historic Homeless Student Audit Project: 202,309 Homeless Youth Reported, 2,700 Schools & 400 Districts Reported Zero Homeless Students, Robust Needs Assessments Are Key To Funding

In California, schools are legally required to identify homeless students, provide services to those students and report the data back to the state, yet a quarter of all schools in the state say that none of their students are experiencing homelessness.   https://www.sbsun.com/2019/03/06/state-to-audit-school-districts-procedures-to-identify-serve-homeless-students/   An audit of school districts aims to find if that answer is accurate.  The audit, approved unanimously Wednesday, March 6 by the Joint Committee on Legislative Audit, will study barriers that schools face in identifying students experiencing homelessness, why (and if) those students are going unreported, and best practices to identify and provide services to them.  The sample size for the audit will be small. Just three to five public school districts and a charter school will be selected for the questions, which will be conducted by the state auditor’s office. Districts will come from rural, suburban and urban areas, and at least one will come out of San Bernardino County and the San Francisco Bay area.  The number of homeless youth in California has jumped 20 percent since 2014, to more than 202,329, and accounts for nearly 4 percent of the overall public school population, according to a 2017 report in EdSource.  The auditor’s office will examine districts that have reported zero homeless students entirely, or at-large schools in the district. They also will look at a district that has been successful at identifying homeless students and and providing services to them.  The audit will be the first of its kind, at least during State Auditor Elaine Howle’s 19-year tenure, and is expected to take six to nine months to complete.  It was requested by Assemblymembers James Ramos, D-Highland, David Chiu, D-San Francisco and Luz Rivas, D-Arleta.  “It is imperative to review the data and practices and learn about areas that can be improved,” Ramos told the committee Wednesday. “We will provide our local schools the critical tools that will lead to solutions to reduce the risk of homeless youth becoming homeless adults.”  Khieem Jackson, Deputy Superintendent for the California Department of Education’s Government Affairs Division, said education agencies are identifying homeless children and youth to the best of their ability, with the resources they have.  The audit could illuminate the barriers that school districts and the state face in implementing the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, Jackson said.  The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, enacted in 1987, and state law requires all school districts, county offices of education and charter schools to ensure that homeless students get access to the same free, public education opportunities offered to other students. It also requires that homeless students be provided with certain rights and services, including enrollment without a permanent address or proof of immunizations and school records, and access to transportation, among others. Funding is available for schools and districts to provide those services, but only if they report having homeless students.  Under the act, a student is considered homeless if they lack a regular, fixed and adequate nighttime residence; are sharing housing due to economic hardship; living in a public place, such as cars, parks, emergency or transitional shelters, abandoned buildings, trailer parks, campgrounds or motels; are a runaway or unaccompanied youth staying with friends or family; are abandoned in a hospital; or are migratory youth in any of these situations.  As of 2017, about 2,700 schools and 400 districts have reported that none of their students are experiencing homelessness, according to data from the state Department of Education.  If homeless students are not counted, they are not getting the services they need, Chiu said.  “These students endure vastly different experiences than others and need services to succeed,” Chiu said. “The problem is not going away simply because we ignore it.”

In California, schools are legally required to identify homeless students, provide services to those students and report the data back to the state, yet a quarter of all schools in the state say that none of their students are experiencing homelessness.

https://www.sbsun.com/2019/03/06/state-to-audit-school-districts-procedures-to-identify-serve-homeless-students/

An audit of school districts aims to find if that answer is accurate.

The audit, approved unanimously Wednesday, March 6 by the Joint Committee on Legislative Audit, will study barriers that schools face in identifying students experiencing homelessness, why (and if) those students are going unreported, and best practices to identify and provide services to them.

The sample size for the audit will be small. Just three to five public school districts and a charter school will be selected for the questions, which will be conducted by the state auditor’s office. Districts will come from rural, suburban and urban areas, and at least one will come out of San Bernardino County and the San Francisco Bay area.

The number of homeless youth in California has jumped 20 percent since 2014, to more than 202,329, and accounts for nearly 4 percent of the overall public school population, according to a 2017 report in EdSource.

The auditor’s office will examine districts that have reported zero homeless students entirely, or at-large schools in the district. They also will look at a district that has been successful at identifying homeless students and and providing services to them.

The audit will be the first of its kind, at least during State Auditor Elaine Howle’s 19-year tenure, and is expected to take six to nine months to complete.

It was requested by Assemblymembers James Ramos, D-Highland, David Chiu, D-San Francisco and Luz Rivas, D-Arleta.

“It is imperative to review the data and practices and learn about areas that can be improved,” Ramos told the committee Wednesday. “We will provide our local schools the critical tools that will lead to solutions to reduce the risk of homeless youth becoming homeless adults.”

Khieem Jackson, Deputy Superintendent for the California Department of Education’s Government Affairs Division, said education agencies are identifying homeless children and youth to the best of their ability, with the resources they have.

The audit could illuminate the barriers that school districts and the state face in implementing the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, Jackson said.

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, enacted in 1987, and state law requires all school districts, county offices of education and charter schools to ensure that homeless students get access to the same free, public education opportunities offered to other students. It also requires that homeless students be provided with certain rights and services, including enrollment without a permanent address or proof of immunizations and school records, and access to transportation, among others. Funding is available for schools and districts to provide those services, but only if they report having homeless students.

Under the act, a student is considered homeless if they lack a regular, fixed and adequate nighttime residence; are sharing housing due to economic hardship; living in a public place, such as cars, parks, emergency or transitional shelters, abandoned buildings, trailer parks, campgrounds or motels; are a runaway or unaccompanied youth staying with friends or family; are abandoned in a hospital; or are migratory youth in any of these situations.

As of 2017, about 2,700 schools and 400 districts have reported that none of their students are experiencing homelessness, according to data from the state Department of Education.

If homeless students are not counted, they are not getting the services they need, Chiu said.

“These students endure vastly different experiences than others and need services to succeed,” Chiu said. “The problem is not going away simply because we ignore it.”