What is Homeless Education?

McKinney- Vento Act and Title I, Part A

In the United States, more than 1 million public school kids lack a personal space to call their own, a desk at which to complete their homework, and a bed to sleep in at night. The National Center for Homeless Education has compiled state data collecting mandated by federal law, showing that the proportion of homeless pupils has risen over the past ten years.

Homeless Education provides information and resources for homeless children and youths and their right to enroll, attend, participate fully, and succeed in school.

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (McKinney-Vento Act), passed into law in 1987, is federal legislation that ensures the educational rights and protections of children and youths experiencing homelessness. It requires all local educational agencies (LEAs) to ensure that homeless students have access to the same free, appropriate public education, including public preschools, as provided to other children and youths.

The McKinney-Vento Act defines LEAs as public school districts, direct-funded and locally funded charter schools, and county offices of education. It also authorizes the funding for the federal Education for Homeless Children and Youths Program. The McKinney-Vento Act defines homeless children and youths as individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. This definition also includes:

  • Children and youths who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason
  • Children and youths who may be living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, shelters
  • Children and youths who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as regular sleeping accommodation for human beings
  • Children and youths who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings, or
  • Migratory children who qualify as homeless because they are children who are living in similar circumstances listed above

Both the McKinney-Vento Act and Title I, Part A call for cross-program cooperation to better identify and meet the needs of students who are homeless. According to the McKinney-Vento ACT, each school district must designate a local homeless education liaison to act as the district’s primary point of contact for homeless education and to oversee the implementation of the Act in all of the district’s schools. Local liaisons’ duties include coordinating and collaborating with other school staff members in charge of delivering services to homeless children.

School districts are required by Title I, Part A to set aside enough Title I money in order to offer homeless students services that are on par with those offered to students in Title I schools. These services can include offering educationally-related support services to kids living in shelters and other places where homeless kids might reside. Homeless set-aside funds may be used to provide similar services to homeless students who do not attend a Title I school, but they may also be used to provide services to homeless students, including those attending Title I schools, that are not typically provided to other Title I students, such as funding the local liaison position and funding transportation to and from the school of origin.

Two principles govern the usage of homeless set-aside funds:

  1. The services must be reasonable and necessary to assist students experiencing homelessness to take advantage of educational opportunities.
  2. The funds must be used only as a last resort when funds or services are not available from other public or private sources.

The common goal of Title I, Part A, and McKinney-Vento programs is to identify and meet the educational needs of these students, who frequently have significant needs and face particular educational barriers. Despite this, students who are homeless frequently have unique educational barriers and needs, which makes these programs complimentary. Cross-program alliances can considerably enhance the academic performance of students who are homeless while also satisfying the legal criteria for cooperation in each program.

Unfortunately, the two guiding principles that determine how homeless funds are used for students who are experiencing homelessness frequently do not meet all of the needs of the students. Because of this, it’s crucial for communities and companies to give to districts so they can use donated monies that aren’t considered federal dollars to help with student needs that aren’t often covered by federal funds.

Homeless Education Liaisons

What are the responsibilities of the local liaison for homeless children and youths?

The local homeless liaison serves as one of the primary contacts between homeless families and school staff, district personnel, shelter workers, and other service providers. Every LEA, whether or not it receives a McKinney-Vento subgrant, is required to designate a local liaison. The liaison coordinates services to ensure that homeless children and youths enroll in school and have the opportunity to succeed academically.

Get Involved

Merchant Marketing

If you gift $250 or more to a school district to aid homeless students, whether you’re a small, medium-sized, or large business that offers discounts, we will promote your brand.

Ways to Support

There are numerous methods for people and neighborhood businesses to support initiatives for homeless education. Coming together and acting are the first steps.

Find a School District

The Homeless Liaison directory lists ALL public schools in the US. Included are state-by-state estimates of the number of pupils homeless and their needs to assist students.