Congressman Panetta Calls on Department of Education to Meet the Needs of Students Experiencing Homelessness

January 14, 2021
Press Release

SALINAS, CA – Today, Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel Valley) sent a bipartisan, bicameral letter calling on the Department of Education (DOE) to ensure federal funds are properly allocated to meet the needs of students experiencing homelessness.  Congress’ most recent COVID relief bill includes language urging DOE to effectively use funds reserved for students experiencing homelessness under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  Congressman Panetta is joined by Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Rep. Danny K. Davis (D, IL-07), Rep. John Yarmuth (D, KY-03), and Rep. Don Bacon (R, NE-02).

“This pandemic has not only exacerbated student homelessness, but further deepened the harsh impacts on a student’s ability to succeed in school,” said Congressman Panetta.  “It is more important than ever to ensure federal funding is properly appropriated and utilized to ensure students experiencing homelessness can access the resources they need.  The Department of Education must heed our guidance to ensure homelessness does not hold these students back from academic success.”

“It is now more urgent than ever before to address the needs of students experiencing homelessness. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department’s data showed that 1.5 million homeless children and youth were identified and enrolled in public schools – an 11 percent increase over the previous school year and the highest number on record.  The economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly exacerbated this situation, causing more families and youth to struggle without a safe, stable home environment, and creating even more barriers to their education,” said Senator Machin.

“As County Superintendent of a small rural county, it is imperative that our LEA’s are fully funded to support our homeless populations. The pandemic has caused extreme hardships for our families, which has increased the number of students experiencing homelessness. I strongly recommend the Department of Education ensure Title 1, Part A funds be allocated to meet the needs of students experiencing homelessness and urge that this is addressed immediately,” said Krystal Lomanto, County Superintendent, San Benito County Office of Education.

“In the wake of the pandemic and economic crisis, it is vitally important to ensure that school districts are setting aside adequate amounts of Title I Part A funding to support students experiencing homelessness, using those funds effectively to meet students’ unique needs, and engaging McKinney-Vento personnel in the process. We strongly support the report language included in the FY21 omnibus legislation, and hope the Department will implement it robustly,” said Barbara Dufield, Executive Director, SchoolHouse Connection.

“We are facing a clear and present crisis for children experiencing homelessness. Our education system is a critical institution for mitigating and addressing the impact of the pandemic on these children. Investment must be made to do so—both to help children now, but also to stem the potential devastation wrought by allowing so many children’s futures to be shaped by homelessness. We believe it is vitally important to ensure that school districts use their Title I Part A dollars to address the needs of children experiencing homelessness,” said Claas Ehlers, CEO, Family Promise.

“Child and youth homelessness continues to skyrocket in the United States, with over 1.5 million students experiencing homelessness in the 2017-2018 school year, a 10 percent increase from the previous school year.  COVID-19 has only served to expose and further exacerbate homelessness, putting an increased number of children and youth in situations that make social distancing and distance learning near impossible.  First Focus on Children strongly encourages the U.S. Department of Education to implement report language in the FY2021 omnibus spending bill to ensure that homeless students can access resources through Title I Part A to meet their immediate educational needs during this crisis and beyond,” said Bruce Lesley, President, First Focus Campaign for Children.

“Youth experiencing homelessness have unique and persistent needs as a result of the pandemic and depressed economy, including youth who struggle on their own, without the support of a parent or guardian. The National Network for Youth strongly urges the U.S. Department of Education to implement the report language included in the FY21 omnibus and ensure that school districts set aside enough Title 1 Part A funding to meet the needs of students experiencing homelessness,” said Darla Bardine, Executive Director, National Network for Youth.

The full text of the letter can be read here or below:

Dear Secretary Brogan:

We write to call your attention to report language included in the recently-enacted FY2021 Omnibus and COVID Relief and Response Act, urging the Department of Education (the Department) to ensure that Title I, Part A funds are reserved in adequate amounts, and used appropriately, to meet the needs of students experiencing homelessness, and urge its full and swift implementation. The Report states:

“The Committee urges that the Department support LEAs' development of plans under section 1112(b)(6) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that describe the amount of funds for homeless students reserved under section 1113(c)(3)(A) of the ESEA, how such amount was determined, and the amount of the prior year's reservation that was spent on homeless students. The Committee further urges that the Department support SEAs' development of plans under section 1111(g)(1)(F) of the ESEA that describe how the SEA will monitor the amount and use of funds reserved for homeless students under section 1113(c)(3)(A) and provide technical assistance to assist LEAs in effectively using such funds to support homeless students.”

It is now more urgent than ever before to address the needs of students experiencing homelessness. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department’s data showed that 1.5 million homeless children and youth were identified and enrolled in public schools – an 11 percent increase over the previous school year and the highest number on record.  The economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly exacerbated this situation, causing more families and youth to struggle without a safe, stable home environment, and creating even more barriers to their education. Local education agencies are also facing unprecedented difficulties reaching and identifying homeless students in the wake of the pandemic, with as many as 420,000 homeless students around the country being at risk of failing to receive the critical services that help them succeed in school. This is of great concern, as research shows that a high school degree is the single greatest protective factor against future homelessness and is imperative to escaping poverty.

Title I Part A has a critical role to play in closing the academic achievement gaps for homeless students, whose graduation and proficiency rates are significantly below those of economically disadvantaged students. It is imperative that funds reserved to provide services for homeless students be sufficient to meet the needs of this population and be used as allowable under federal law, and that schools do not allow this funding to expire without being expensed.

We urge you to take every possible measure to begin to implement the FY2021 report language on Title I Part A and homelessness, including tracking the amount of funds reserved by LEAs for homeless students, how the reserved amounts were determined, and how much of prior years’ reservations were spent serving homeless students. We also urge you to assist and ensure that SEAs are monitoring the amount and use of Title I funds reserved to provide services for homeless students. Finally, we ask that you look for all avenues at your disposal to prioritize the needs of students experiencing homelessness within and across federal education programs, including COVID relief funding and robust support for the McKinney-Vento Act’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth program.

We appreciate your consideration of this request.

 

Sincerely,