Study: More than half of Illinois homeless students lack needed school services


Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) has released findings from a statewide survey of public school districts across Illinois: More than half of homeless students in Illinois must cope without needed tutoring, preschool or school counseling.

An Illinois record 54,892 homeless students, preschool through 12th grade, were identified by public schools last year (2012-13), according to updated figures from the Illinois State Board of Education.

Law Project Director Laurene Heybach and the homeless liaison for Kane County schools, Deb Dempsey, talked about the findings on WBEZ (91.5 FM) “Afternoon Shift.”  A recording of the interview is available here.

WBEZ also interviewed a college student about his experience with homelessness while growing up in suburban Kane County.

CCH ran a statewide survey in December 2013 that asked public school districts and Regional Offices of Education to respond about the level of services reaching children and teens identified as homeless students. Sixty-seven percent responded – 36 of 54 sub-grantees under the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

Key findings include:

· 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

The Illinois State Board of Education has proposed to restore $3 million in FY15 state funding for grants to school districts for services to homeless students, but the proposal must still be approved by the Governor and the state legislature. Funding was awarded for only one year, during FY09, though homeless enrollment in schools across Illinois has more than doubled over the past five years, to 54,892 last school year (2012-13).

Associate Law Director Patricia Nix-Hodes also testified on the need for this funding at a State Senate Appropriations Committee hearing this morning.

– Anne Bowhay, Media

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Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.