Washington, DC -- U.S. Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL-13) today announced a new push for legislation designed to keep homeless kids in school and better meet the educational needs of a fast-growing population of homeless youth. The Educational Success for Children and Youth Without Homes (ESCYWH) Act is designed to update and build upon the successful McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) programs created under No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Originally introduced in 2010, the bill has been updated and reintroduced in the new 112th Congress, during which Biggert says she expects the plan to receive a vote on the House floor, either as stand-alone legislation or part of broader legislation revamping the nation's K through 12 education guidelines.
"School is often the only source of stability and security in the lives of children without a home," said Biggert, who authored the original EHCY provisions in 2001 and serves as Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Homelessness. "But homeless kids face unique challenges that can make it extremely difficult to enroll in school and make it to class each day. Being without a home should not mean being without an education. This bill will close the gap in our homeless education policies, and it will provide our schools the resources and flexibility they need to give homeless kids a chance at a brighter future."
During the 2008-2009 school year, the Department of Education recorded over 930,000 homeless children in public schools, a 38 percent increase over the previous year. Estimates for the 2009-2010 school year are expected to be even higher as the economic downturn continues to impact millions of American families. Cosponsored by Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ-7), the bipartisan ESCYWH Act would help meet the growing needs of the homeless youth population by:
- Clarifying existing language that allows homeless kids to stay in their school of origin;
- Allowing the use of EHCY funds to cover transportation costs for homeless children;
- Providing school district homeless liaisons with professional development, training, and additional resources;
- Increasing access to preschool programs for young homeless children;
- Opening summer school, before and after school programs, and other educational opportunities to homeless youth;
- Ensuring Title I funds are available to support the academic achievement of homeless students; and more.
"These improvements will ensure that homeless kids can stay in the school where they feel comfortable and provide them with basic supplies, transportation to class, and access to after school activities and other programs," said Biggert, a senior member of the House Education and Labor Committee and Co-Chair of House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children. "It also will lessen bureaucratic hurdles and funding restrictions that make it harder for schools to enroll these students and provide them with the services they need."
The bipartisan bill was developed in collaboration with several national advocacy organizations and is supported by the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, the National Network for Youth, the Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, and the National Policy & Advocacy Council on Homelessness.
"We are thrilled to see the introduction of legislation that reflects the front-line experiences of educators, service providers, families, and youth," said Barbara Duffield, Policy Director for the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth. "The ESCYWH Act will help make sure that homeless children and youth receive the education they need to escape poverty and homelessness as adults. It is needed now more than ever."