As California’s housing shortage intensifies, the number of homeless children is expected to climb. Since 2014, the number of homeless youth in California has jumped 20 percent, to more than 202,329, and accounts for nearly 4 percent of the overall public school population. Homeless children are enrolled in nearly every district in the state, according to the California Homeless Youth Project. An EdSource special project explored the issue in detail, and includes a map showing the number of homeless students in California schools.
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act is a federal law, passed in 1987 and re-authorized in 2015, that guarantees certain rights for homeless children, regardless of whether they’re homeless for a week or years. The law requires schools and districts to provide homeless youth “equal access to the same free, appropriate public education, including a public preschool education, as provided to other children and youths.”
The law means that homeless children do not have to re-register at a different school every time they move, and districts must provide transportation to school regardless of where a homeless child is living. For example, if a child is living in a shelter in San Francisco but attending school in San Jose, the San Jose district must provide transportation to school every day.
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