Despite increasing homelessness among families with children, federal funding for the Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program was cut by 20% in FY96. The simultaneous increase in homelessness among families with children and reduction in federal funding for the EHCY program now threatens the progress that states and local communities have made in helping the nation's most vulnerable children enroll, attend, and succeed in school.
A new report, published by the National Coalition of the Homeless (NCH), reveals that budget cuts have reduced educational opportunities for homeless children and youth and have restricted the ability of states to meet the increasing demand for services. The report, America's Homeless Children: Will Their Future Be Different?, presents the findings of a survey of state administrators of homeless children's education programs. All State Coordinators for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth were polled; forty states (80%) responded.
The survey found that at least 15,690 fewer homeless children received educational services as a result of the FY96 budget cut and that 41 local education programs have been or will be eliminated. Other findings include:
Reduced funding prevented many states from expanding services to meet needs.
At the current funding level, schools and other service providers are able to serve only a small proportion of the children estimated to be homeless in their state. On average, the states responding to the survey provide direct educational services to 24% of their estimated population of homeless children.
Loss of funding forced 63% of states responding to the survey to reduce tutorial hours, transportation, school supplies, and coordination of services. For example, in Colorado, there was a decrease in staff hours for tutoring and outreach in all funded programs, and almost all support services and materials were cut, such as eye glasses, school supplies, and books at home. In Washington state, the distribution of school supplies to homeless children and youth was reduced in both quality and quantity, and summer programs were eliminated.
Many states report that changes in welfare programs have increased, or are expected to increase, the number of homeless children in their schools. In early findings, 25% of states responding to the survey believe welfare reform has already impacted their homeless education programs.
Lack of funding has restricted the efforts of several states to provide services to homeless preschoolers. Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington all cited examples of loss of services, or inability to expand services, to homeless
preschoolers. In Wisconsin, all preschool programs were eliminated. West Virginia's plans to offer programs for preschool children were canceled.
The NCH report presents state profiles for each of the 40 states that responded, including the amount of the Education for Homeless Children and Youth grant, the number of children served in both 1995-96 and 1996-97, the estimated number of homeless children in the state, and the accomplishments education program.
The report also profiles the impact of funding cuts on local homeless education programs. For example, in Minneapolis, McKinney funding was cut by more than 33% for the 1996-97 school year. In Ohio, funding for the education of homeless children and youth received a 25% cut, which left many organizations scrambling to maintain services.
Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine Issue 23 October 1997