Lawmakers Announce Audit of Student Homelessness Data
Audit will investigate why over one-quarter of California schools report having zero homeless students enrolled despite high rates of homelessness across the state
Sacramento, CA--Assemblymembers David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and Luz Rivas (D-Arleta) announced today they are requesting an audit of local school districts to examine why student homelessness may be going unreported or underreported throughout California. The audit will analyze why over one-quarter of California schools report that they have no homeless students enrolled and as a result, are not providing any state- or federally-mandated services to students experiencing homelessness.
“Student homelessness is not an issue that will simply go away if we pretend it isn’t happening,” said Assemblymember Chiu. “If students experiencing homelessness are not being identified, they are not getting access to the services they need to be successful.”
“California has over 200,000 homeless schoolchildren, yet over 400 districts in California have not identified even a single homeless student,” said Assemblywoman Rivas. “That is simply unacceptable as we know that homelessness affects every community regardless of income. We must develop a more robust and comprehensive solution for identifying these hidden homeless children.”
Under the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act and related state laws, all local educational agencies (LEAs), including charter schools, are required to identify homeless students enrolled at their schools, report that data to federal and state governments, and provide those students with services. Services vary based on individual student needs, but can include access to Head Start programs, district-funded transportation services, automatic enrollment in school nutrition programs, credit for partial coursework, and the right to a fifth year of high school.
Data compiled by the California Department of Education shows that nearly 2,700 schools in California, many of them large high schools in high-cost urban areas, report identifying zero students experiencing homelessness. Thus, nearly 2,700 schools across the state are not providing any services to homeless students.
The McKinney-Vento Act defines homelessness broadly for the purposes of K-12 education. Students who live in shared or cramped accommodations due to economic hardship as well as those who live in shelters, vehicles, or motels are all defined as homeless. This broad definition combined with the high rates of homelessness in California, rampant inequality, and unprecedented housing costs, make it highly unlikely that one-quarter of California schools are immune to the epidemic of youth homelessness.
“As the Assemblymember representing the Inland Empire, I am eager to support Assemblymember Luz Rivas and David Chiu's efforts in requesting this audit to gain valuable information about how our local educational agencies are providing and referring services to homeless youth,” said Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland). “It’s important to review prior data and practices in order to learn where we are succeeding and where we can improve. With this audit, my hope is that we can provide educators and administrators with the proper tools to identify homeless youth and at-risk populations in their schools, connect them to services, and get them out of the cycle of homelessness.”
The audit, if approved, will investigate why students experiencing homelessness are going unreported, barriers schools face in identifying them, and best practices to providing services to these students.
The audit request will be heard by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC) on March 6. Once approved by JLAC, the California State Auditor’s office will begin work on administering the audit.