Homeless kids need access to education
A federal judge has found the state does not have a reliable way of identifying homeless children so they can enroll in public schools.
The state's inability to identify children who don't have a permanent residence
blocks students from getting help they need to enroll and stay in public schools.
The violation of federal law that requires equal access to education needs immediate correction. It is essential that the Department of Education open as many avenues as possible to inform homeless parents of their rights, get children to campuses and let them remain in the classrooms where they are most comfortable.
A federal judge, ruling in a lawsuit brought by three homeless families, ordered the department to find ways to ensure that an estimated 2,000 homeless children are enrolled in schools, that their parents are notified of the services they are due and that needed transportation is provided, as the law requires.
The department appears to lack a coordinated system to track and help homeless students. For instance, at the end of the last school year, the department had identified 900 homeless students, but only 300 students so far this year because it doesn't retain listings.
To be fair, keeping track of transient children is difficult, but the department should be working with other state agencies, such as its homeless outreach coordinator. Shelters and organizations that aid homeless people can be enlisted to pass on information about education services and how to get them.
Children without homes are already at a disadvantage. They need a stable school environment and a way to get to class. They need an education if they are to leave the ranks of the homeless.
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