Washington State faces a growing crisis of student homelessness that is causing many of our children to fall through the cracks in school. Imagine living in your car as a child and being unable to complete your homework at night as the dome light in your car burns out. This is a true story, and tragically is not far from the reality faced every day by tens of thousands of Washington children who are are living on the streets, in homeless shelters, motels, under bridges, or moving from place to place due to economic instability.
While education is the way out of poverty and toward a bright and secure future for these kids, data shows that Washington’s homeless students are struggling to succeed in school. It’s time for our state to focus on solving this crisis and ensure we are doing all we can to help ALL our kids get on a path to graduation.
The Homeless Children Education Act (SB 6074, HB 2373), sponsored by Sen. David Frockt (D, Seattle) and Rep. Kevin Parker (R, Spokane), and supported by homeless youth advocates across Washington State, is the first step to addressing this crisis. If passed by the legislature, the HCEA would improve data collection on the educational outcomes of homeless students, and provide teachers and school staff with improved training to help them identify and serve homeless students in school.
Improved data collection will help schools, community organizations, and policy leaders target effective solutions to help homeless students succeed in school. Improved training will help teachers and staff bring homeless students out of the shadows and provide these kids with the stability and support that will help them graduate.
A crisis this serious, with children’s’ futures at stake, demands bipartisan action from our leaders, regardless of ideology. Inaction will not solve the problem, and waiting will mean more vulnerable kids continue to fail in school. It is time to start a conversation in our state about how to best serve our growing population of homeless students, and to take the first step to improve data and training by passing the Homeless Education Act!