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Keeping Homeless Children in a Familiar School

There is a federal mandate which requires school districts to provide transportation for homeless children to the schools they are already familiar with. Unfortunately there is not enough matching federal money to enforce the mandate. This is creating an ever-growing financial burden on many school districts’ shrinking budgets.

When the family becomes homeless and needs temporary housing, the housing is often far away from the child’s school district. Yet the child must receive transportation, even if it means calling an expensive taxi cab to get that child to a familiar school.

The definition of homelessness has been broadened for the benefit of children. Although this is a good thing for the student, the effect is an increased financial burden on the school district. A child who is staying with a relative, although not technically homeless, meets the definition of homelessness for the federal mandate. By having this broad definition of homelessness, the federal mandate encompasses more students than some school districts can comfortably provide transportation for.

The financial burden is also increasing due to the increasing number of homeless students all across the nation. Many districts are seeing an increase of 80 to 100% of homeless students over the year before. And that number is rising in many parts of the country.

These numbers are not even accurate, as many families hide their homelessness. The stigma of being homeless is so great that many people do not take advantage of federal programs designed to assist them.

What do you think? Should the federal mandate continued to give the family the right to have transportation to the original school? Should we save money by having the federal mandate drop the provision for transportation to the original school? Wouldn’t transportation to the school district nearest the temporary housing be enough of a burden for local school districts?


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