As Mayor De Blasio grapples with the growing homeless problem in New York City, the Department of Education is also faced with a similar challenge of insuring the students identified as homeless in New York City are also being served. According to the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness August 2015 report, The Atlas of Student Homelessness in New York City, there were over 84,000 students during the 2013-14 school year who were either living in shelters, living doubled up with other households, or living outside shelters or residences. This is a significant increase of approximately 25% from the 2010 number of school aged homeless students. In essence, 8% of NYC public schools students are defined as homeless and for charter schools, 5% of the total enrolled population are homeless students.
Citywide studies of homeless students have found that they achieve worse outcomes on test scores, tend to be chronically absent more often than housed students, and one out of every nine students in NYC public schools in school year 2013-14 experienced homelessness within the past four school year. Other findings include that 20% of homeless students dropped out compared to housed students, and 15% of all homeless students are held back or required to repeat one or more grades.
For Independent Charter Schools, as with district schools, it is important that administrators and teachers understand the growing needs of homeless students. Under the McKinney-Vento Act, the federal law guiding charter schools on the educational rights of students in temporary housing, a STAT-202 form must be completed when a student is identified as homeless. Charter Schools are considered local educational agencies (LEAS) and are required to appoint a liaison to help students in temporary housing and their parents. The liaison is responsible for ensuring that activities with other agencies are coordinated with school personnel; students in temporary housing have full and equal opportunity to succeed in school; and provide public notice of the educational rights is disseminated where to receive services such as schools, family shelters and soup kitchens.
With these startling statistics, more specialized charter schools such as Broome Street, Road I and Road II, and Wildcat Academy are needed to provide a safe haven and supports to children and parents. In addition, all schools must be prepared to identify and address the needs of this growing population.
by Oma Holloway