Q & A from our Inboxes

SchoolHouse Connection receives many questions from educators, service providers, and the public about the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness. We’ll feature some of them here. These answers correspond to particular fact situations and may not always apply to a question you have. Please contact us with your specific questions.

 

Are all LEAs that receive Title I required to reserve set-side funds for homeless students? Or are only those that have a mix of Title I and non-Title I campuses required to do so, although all LEAS may reserve such funds if they choose to?

Answer: All LEAs that receive Title I, Part A funds must reserve funds for homeless children and youth, including those LEAs where every campus is a Title I campus. This is clear from the fact that the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA) eliminated the previous...

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What does the law mean when it states that homeless children and youth “do not face barriers in accessing … extracurricular activities?” Is it specifically related to extracurricular activities related to academics?

Answer:  This provision is broader than only activities related to academics.  Rather than “academic,” the activity must be an integral part of school activities.  The basis for this is: The definition of “enrollment” includes attending classes and participating in...

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I’ve been trying to find the statement in the law (or guidance, or regulations) that states that the reservation of funds under Title I Part A that is required for homeless students must be taken “off the top” of an LEA’s allocation before funds are distributed to schools. We’re trying to figure out the meaning of funds “off the top,” and how this relates to homelessness, non-public schools, etc.

Answer: This requirement is found in the language of the law itself, Section 1113(c)(3)(A)(i) of Title I, Part A. A recent Congressional Research Service memo helps clarify this provision by stating that “current ESEA statutory language directs that the reservation of...

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When a family leaves a shelter, they usually call the liaison to provide their new address for the purpose of rearranging school transportation. Can the liaison change/update a family’s address based on this phone call? Some in our district are saying families need to come in to the central enrollment office and show proof of address or sign an affidavit before we can adjust transportation. 

Answer: Yes, the liaison can update the address and rearrange the student’s transportation based on the phone call. Requiring families to go to the central enrollment office before adjusting transportation arrangements will result in students missing school. That is a...

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We’ve seen a few disputes where the district liaison doesn’t have all the details about the McKinney-Vento family and their situation. So when they go into a dispute they don’t understand the full story. This has caused the family to feel harassed and unwanted in the LEA and tainted the dispute process. What legal language can I use to address this?

Answer: The liaison has the legal responsibility to ensure enrollment disputes are mediated and to carry out the dispute process expeditiously. 42 USC §§11432(g)(3)(E)(iii) & 11432(g)(6)(A)(vii). In order to do this, the liaison must collect all the facts to be...

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Many of our districts have school building-level McKinney-Vento contacts who work with the district liaison. We know this is a best practice, but we’ve run into challenges regarding lines of authority. For example, if a building contact deems a family homeless, but the liaison disagrees, it can create confusion and undue hardships for families. What would the law say about this?

Answer: We have published Guidelines for Designating LEA-Level and Building-Level McKinney-Vento Liaisons that may be helpful. The district level liaison is the ultimate authority on LEA determinations of homelessness and other decisions (disputable by the...

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Does ESSA speak to the “immediate enrollment” of preschool children (as long as openings exist), similar to what is required for K-12 students? In my state, both state and federally funded preschool programs are required to be licensed by the state and must follow licensing guidelines which require documentation that our families experiencing homelessness often do not have in their immediate possession.

Answer: The short answer is yes, the McKinney-Vento Act requirements for immediate enrollment do apply to preschool programs that are administered by the SEA or LEAs. The guidance from the U.S. Department of Education states the following: “N-4. Do McKinney-Vento Act...

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A homeless unaccompanied youth who receives special education services is residing with her grandmother. The parent does not want the grandmother to make any educational decisions, but the school does not think the parent is the best decision maker, since she has no communication at all with the student. I want to make sure we are following the student and parental rights as outlined in McKinney-Vento as well as the IDEA.

Answer: The mother retains her rights under IDEA even while the daughter is living somewhere else and they are not in touch. Unless a court intervenes to restrict the mother’s rights (which is extremely unlikely at this point), she remains the mother legally. If the...

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If a student is identified in a district as McKinney-Vento, and during the same school year, is placed in foster care, does that student still receive McKinney-Vento services for the entire year, which would include transportation? Since McKinney-Vento services are provided for the entire school year, does the McKinney-Vento identification supersede the foster care identification?

Answer: No. In light of the new ED guidance that came out on March 3, the foster care identification essentially supersedes the McKinney-Vento identification in this situation.  The new guidance specifies that if a student qualified as “homeless” due to awaiting...

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A family has been evicted from a home. Nonetheless, they continue living in said home after eviction notice and court order. The family now essentially is “squatting” in the residence. Does that make them McKinney-Vento?

Answer: Yes. Based on this information, the family is eligible. The family has no right to be where they are staying, and in fact it isn’t legal for them to be there - they could be forcibly removed at any time. It also seems likely that under these circumstances...

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We had a family living in an apartment complex that is being torn down for a highway. The housing authority allowed them to stay until they found a new place and assisted them with the move. The family found a new place in another district.  Are they McKinney-Vento eligible?

Answer: If the family moved from one fixed, regular, and adequate residence directly to another fixed, regular, and adequate residence – without a period of homelessness in between – then they would not be considered McKinney-Vento. However, as you consider where the...

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I have a question for a high school senior who already completed the FAFSA and included her parents’ income.  She is now living on her own and qualifies as an unaccompanied homeless youth.  Can she amend her FAFSA to indicate that and have her parents’ income be deleted and not considered for financial aid purposes? 

Answer: Yes, the senior can amend her FAFSA.  In fact, she must amend it. There’s some info here that explains the requirements and the process: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/next-steps/correct-update.  Changes in dependency status (such as becoming an...

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We are still struggling with the issue of IEPs that contain transportation as a related service for homeless students who are crossing state lines. Do the two LEAs arrange and share the cost of transportation for homeless students with IEPs that list it as a related service, or does the LEA that is providing all of the IEP services pay for any and all transportation needs for that student, even if he is homeless?

Answer: We have some brand new federal guidance on that question.  It’s new Question J-12 of the McKinney-Vento Guidance update issued on March 3, 2017. When crossing state lines, the allocation of transportation costs should follow the McKinney-Vento Act’s...

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I have a question about an unaccompanied youth and her school of origin rights. The student’s parent is currently incarcerated and she has been sent to live with family friends (no legal guardianship). They want her to attend the local school and do not want her to return to her school of origin. The liaison feels it is in her best interest to remain in the school of origin, and the student wants to remain. Where should this child attend school?

Answer: Let’s talk through the non McKinney-Vento legalities first, for context. These caregivers have no legal rights over the child unless the parents or a court gives them rights. The parent(s) could sign a simple power of attorney that gives the caregiver(s) the...

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I give students the FAFSA letter that states they are unaccompanied and homeless, or unaccompanied, self-supporting and at-risk for homelessness, for financial aid purposes; but what about for scholarship applications or college entrance applications? 

Answer: If the student asks for copies of the FAFSA homeless verification letter, or asks a liaison/counselor to include a homeless verification letter in an application for college admission or scholarship, then it is fine for the liaison/counselor to provide it....

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If a family changes their mind about their decision to leave the “school of origin” after becoming homeless, do they always have the right to return – no matter the circumstance? Please read the email trail below and help with this question.

Answer: Thanks for providing the timeline.  The answer to your final question is no. The right to attend the school of origin always is based on the best interest of the student.  Often (maybe even usually), it will be not be in a student’s best interest to return to...

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I assisted a 14-year-old unaccompanied homeless youth to enroll in school by giving the family with whom he is staying a caregiver form. The boy’s mother is upset that someone else would be allowed to enroll him in school. Did I handle the situation correctly?

Answer: You absolutely did the right thing for the 14-year old youth. The McKinney-Vento Act requires immediate enrollment in school for all homeless youth, including unaccompanied homeless youth. The law also directs schools to review and revise policies that act as...

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We always enroll without birth certificates, immunizations, etc., but we’ve had a few instances – not often – when parents do not have anything at all with them, including identification. Should we enroll them in school without any type of identification? 

Answer: You also are correct in immediately enrolling homeless students, even if they lack identification. The McKinney-Vento citation is 42 U.S.C. §11432(g)(3)(C). The next step, of course, is to work with the family to get identification, but they should be in...

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I have heard that SNAP (or food stamps) is available to unaccompanied youth under the age of 18. However, I have had no success in making that happen in my state. Also, does it matter if a child has been at a certain address for an extended period of time?

Answer: You are exactly right that unaccompanied youth can access SNAP. There is no age limit and no requirement that youth live with their parents or apply with their parents. This memo from the USDA describes how unaccompanied homeless youth under the age of 18 are...

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