22,000 students in state reported homeless
The number of homeless students in Washington state continues to rise, with nearly 22,000 in the past school year, up from roughly 14,000 just four years earlier.
Seattle Times education reporter
The number of homeless students in Washington state continues to rise, with nearly 22,000 reported this past school year, up from roughly 14,000 just four years earlier.
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction attributes the higher number to better reporting as well as the economy. But the agency also cautions that many homeless students probably weren't counted.
"We still have some reporting issues," Melinda Dyer, OSPI's supervisor for the education of homeless children and youth, said in a prepared statement. Because of the stigma, she said, "some families don't tell others they are homeless."
In King and Snohomish counties, 14 school districts reported increases in the number of homeless students from 2008-09 to 2009-10. Some of the biggest increases were in Darrington, Snoqualmie Valley, Northshore and Bellevue.
In Northshore, for example, the number of homeless students doubled, from 81 to 162. In Bellevue, the number rose from 130 to 202.
Fourteen school districts reported fewer homeless students. Those include Marysville, Riverview, Issaquah, Auburn and Renton.
Four districts reported no change over the past year.
Seattle Public Schools, with 1,139, has the second-highest number of homeless students in the state, second only to Tacoma Public Schools, which reported 1,197. Other Puget Sound-area districts with more than 300 homeless students are Everett (630), Highline (597), and Kent (331).
Highline said it expects its numbers will continue to grow, in part because of better reporting and also because more families don't have the means to afford housing.
Under the federal McKinney-Vento Act, districts are required to report the number of homeless students that attend their schools.
As a result, Washington state receives about $850,000 per year. School districts can use that money to support homeless students, especially to provide free transportation to and from school.
Homeless students are allowed to continue at the schools they attended before they became homeless.
OSPI has been working to help districts understand the McKinney-Vento Act's requirements, and that it is designed to benefit homeless families, said spokesman Nathan Olson.
It not only requires free school-bus transportation to homeless students, it also requires schools to enroll homeless students even if they lack required documents such as proof of residence and immunization records.
Linda Shaw: 206-464-2359 or email@example.com
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