Research and Reports
There are approximately 1.5 million K-12 students and an additional 1.4 million children under the age of six experiencing homelessness across the United States. While many of these students attend traditional public schools, a growing number, at least 60,000, are enrolled in charter schools. Charter schools are independently-operated public schools that have additional flexibility to design classrooms that meet their students’ academic and other needs. All charter schools operate under a contract with a charter school authorizer – usually a nonprofit organization, government agency, or university – that holds them accountable to the high standards outlined in their “charter.” The purpose of this report is to begin to paint a clearer picture of the experiences and outcomes of students experiencing homelessness enrolled in charter schools. In this document, we offer basic information about the McKinney-Vento Act, case studies highlighting best practices across charter schools and networks, and key questions for charter school educators, administrators, authorizers, support staff, advocates, and others. We hope charter schools and partners will use this document as a starting point for conversations and action within your schools, networks, communities, and states.
Lost in the Masked Shuffle & Virtual Void: Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness Amidst the Pandemic
Schools provide safety, stability, and services for children and youth experiencing homelessness, as well as the education that is necessary to avoid homelessness as adults. However, in order to benefit from targeted educational protections and services, children and youth must first be identified as experiencing homelessness. New survey data suggests that an estimated 420,000 fewer children and youth experiencing homelessness have been identified and enrolled by schools so far this school year – despite evidence of increasing homelessness, and despite proactive identification efforts by many school district homeless liaisons. This decrease in homeless student enrollment, combined with previous estimates of under-identification, means that as many as 1.4 million children and youth experiencing homelessness may be un-identified and unsupported by their school during the pandemic. Survey responses also demonstrate significant unmet basic needs, as well as the failure of federal CARES Act dollars to reach children and youth experiencing homelessness. If our nation is ever to recover from COVID-19, we must increase outreach to and support for children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness through public schools and early childhood programs, and prioritize their education and well-being in all public systems of care.
This report provides insights into the challenges that unaccompanied homeless youth face in accessing federal financial aid. As indicated by the title of the report – a quote from a young adult who experienced homelessness in high school and in college – many young people are keenly aware of the role of higher education in improving their lives. Yet without financial aid, these young people cannot access post-secondary education.