State and District Implementation of the Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program

Research BriefHealthy SchoolsFeb 3 2015

In the 2010–11 school year, approximately one million students — or 2 percent of the total number of students attending school — were identified as homeless (National Center for Homeless Education, 2012). Most of these homeless children and youth (71 percent) were “doubled-up,” meaning that they resided with another family at night. Other homeless children and youth stayed at a shelter (17 percent), were unsheltered (7 percent), or stayed at a hotel (5 percent) (EDFacts 2010–11). To address the challenges and barriers to school success for homeless children and youth, Congress created the Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program, authorized under Title VII-B of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987 (MVHAA). The MVHAA defines homeless children and youth as those who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, including:

  • Children and youth who are sharing the housing of other persons because of loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds because of lack of alternative adequate accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; are abandoned in hospitals; or are awaiting foster care placement.
  • Children and youth who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.
  • Children and youth who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings.

MVHAA explicitly includes migratory children who are living in the above-listed circumstances.

The EHCY program provides grants to states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and outlying areas with the goal of ensuring that homeless children and youth have access to the same free, appropriate public education as do other children and youth. In addition, the U.S. Department of Education transfers, under a memorandum of agreement, 1 percent of each year’s appropriation to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for programs for homeless Indian students served by schools funded by the BIA.

MVHAA requires states to establish an Office of Coordinator of Education for Homeless Children and Youth and requires school districts to appoint a local homeless liaison. The 2001 reauthorization of MVHAA amended the legislation to require that all school districts, not just those receiving EHCY funds, appoint a homeless liaison. It also strengthened legislative requirements against segregating homeless students, for providing appropriate transportation to and from school, and for determining school placement and ensuring immediate enrollment of homeless students.

During the 2010–11 school year, the year that is the focus of this study, states and districts received EHCY funding through regular fiscal year (FY) 2010 appropriations for the program ($65 million), as well as additional funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which provided an additional $70 million that was available for use during the 2009–10 and 2010–11 school years. States suballocate regular EHCY funds to local education agencies (LEAs) through a competitive process but were permitted to allocate the additional EHCY funds provided under ARRA through either competitive grants or formula grants. States may award subgrants directly to individual school districts or to regional entities that provide services to staff and students in multiple school districts.

Seven in 10 homeless students (71 percent) attended school in a district that received EHCY funds or services in the 2010–11 school year. The percentage of homeless students who attended school in EHCY districts varied by state, ranging from less than 25 percent in two states (New Jersey and Vermont) to 100 percent in four states (Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, and Pennsylvania) (Exhibit 1).

Homeless students in cities were more likely to attend school in an EHCY district (88 percent, compared with 72 percent in suburbs, 53 percent in rural areas, and 49 percent in towns). Across all EHCY districts, an estimated 2.8 percent of all students, on average, were homeless. The five states with the largest reported numbers of homeless students (California, New York, Texas, Florida, and Illinois) accounted for 46 percent of all homeless students and 52 percent of all homeless students in EHCY districts (EDFacts 2010–11).