Two studies released by the Learning Policy Institute show schools around the country struggle to provide resources for students experiencing homelessness. In Indiana, that means a lack of funding leaves many schools without the means to help some of their most vulnerable students.
The Learning Policy Institute found that federal McKinney-Vento funding for students experiencing homelessness provided schools with $79 for each student facing homelessness in 2020. However, the schools that participated in the studies spent anywhere between $128 and $556 per student. To close that gap, schools were forced to raise the funds themselves, and use a combination of public and private funding.
Additionally, the Learning Policy Institute found that states receive McKinney-Vento funding based on Title I, Part A funding rather than the number of students experiencing homelessness in each state. Title I, Part A data measures children from low-income families but does not provide a full picture of how many of those children are homeless.
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The National Center for Homeless Education estimates that more than 15,000 Indiana students experienced homelessness in 2021. However, only 50 local education agencies out of 435 in Indiana received McKinney-Vento money to support those students. The Learning Policy Institute said that some states allocate resources with the sole purpose of supporting students experiencing homelessness, but Indiana is not one of those states.
The studies also detailed difficulties counting the true number of students facing these situations. Some of the challenges, they said, include families’ situations constantly changing and a lack of reporting due to gaps in knowledge about services available to them or fear and embarrassment.
The Learning Policy Institute made recommendations to increase state and federal funding for students experiencing homelessness, expand the uses for available federal funding, revise the McKinney-Vento funding formula and provide more information about resources that are available to students and their families.