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.
With ESSA’s added McKinney-Vento preschool requirements, I assume that public preschools also should disseminate notice of the rights of homeless families and students?
Answer: Absolutely. Preschools are included within the definition of school of origin (we have a flowchart to walk you through those requirements), and providing access to early childhood programs is part of the liaison’s responsibilities. Given those requirements,...read more
A family in a domestic violence shelter in District A is moving into the shelter’s transitional housing program this summer, in District B. The family is expected to be there for 2 years. Does District A have to keep the student and provide transportation, or may they have the student register in District B?
Answer: This depends entirely on the best interest of the student. As amended by ESSA, McKinney-Vento presumes that remaining in the school of origin is in the student’s best interest. However, if it truly looks like the student will be stable in District B for 2...read more
We are encountering families who qualified for our program last year, who are now in Permanent Supportive Housing Programs. Under HUD, these families are no longer considered homeless. Does this same rule apply to schools?
Answer: This is a case-by-case determination, hinging on what kind of housing actually is being provided and the terms of the housing. In general, try to consider whether the housing is more like a Section 8 voucher (not McKinney-Vento education eligible) or more like...read more
To maintain an accurate database, at the end of the school year, I remove students whom I know have secured stable housing. In August, I reach out to the others with questionnaires and phone calls/emails, to get the latest information. If they are still eligible, I keep them in the program. Is that process appropriate, or should I remove ALL my McKinney-Vento students at the end of each year and then have them re-apply to determine continued eligibility?
Answer: Your process seems appropriate and more likely to avoid dropping students from the program who actually are still experiencing homelessness. Reaching out with phone calls, emails, questionnaires, and reminders to families to update you on their living...read more
We have a family who has been told by the friend with whom they are residing not to give the physical address to the school. Is there anything in writing stating that the school can enroll without that address?
Answer: Yes, the McKinney-Vento Act itself specifically states that schools must enroll students experiencing homelessness immediately, even if the student is unable to provide documents that are typically required for enrollment, such as previous academic records,...read more
Must charter schools enroll McKinney-Vento students regardless of whatever enrollment schedule the schools have set up?
Answer: Generally, yes. Depending on how the state organizes charter schools, they either are their own local educational agencies (LEAs) or part of another LEA. Either way, the McKinney-Vento Act applies to charter schools. ESSA amended McKinney-Vento to ensure that...read more
Must charter schools set aside Title I, Part A funds for McKinney-Vento students even if they have not identified any students experiencing homelessness in the previous years?
Answer: Yes. Now that ESSA’s Title I amendments are in effect, all LEAs that receive Title I, Part A funds must reserve funds for students experiencing homelessness. Even if the LEA has not identified McKinney-Vento students in the past, virtually no LEA (charter or...read more
For the FAFSA, a Financial Aid Administrator (FAA) can resolve “conflicting information” with a documented phone call or a written statement from the relevant authority. If the FAA simply disagrees with an authority’s determination, is that “conflicting information”? Does the determination supersede the FAA’s disagreement?
Answer: Yes, the determination supersedes the FAA’s disagreement. The U.S. Department of Education has made it very clear, in both the Application and Verification Guide and a Dear Colleague letter, that it is not conflicting information if a FAA disagrees with an...read more
Our State Pre-K application requests verification of a family’s income to determine eligibility and funding for each slot. We want families who are homeless to apply, but what can we request to verify their income, recognizing that they often are unable to provide documentation?
Answer: The best solution would be for your State Pre-K program to provide automatic eligibility for children experiencing homelessness. That way, they would not have to prove income. State Pre-K could accept referrals from liaisons, family shelters and other sources,...read more
A student was designated McKinney-Vento for the 2016-2017 school year, but became permanently housed in the spring. The family wishes for the student to attend summer school at the school of origin. Can the student stay at the school of origin for summer school?
Answer: It depends on how your state defines the school year. McKinney-Vento states that LEAs must “continue the child's or youth's education in the school of origin … for the remainder of the academic year, if the child or youth becomes permanently housed during an...read more
Do McKinney-Vento State Coordinators or local liaisons have a formal relationship to juvenile court?
Answer: State Coordinators have a specific requirement to coordinate and collaborate with juvenile courts, found at 42 USC 11432(f)(4)(B). Liaisons have a number of collaboration and coordination duties, including around identification. While juvenile courts are not...read more
I am working with a homeless unaccompanied student who is trying to secure summer employment. The work permit needs to be signed by a parent or legal guardian. This student is doubled up with his aunt (not a legal guardian) and is not in contact with his parents. Is there any way around getting the signature on the work permit?
Answer: This depends on state law. Some states do not require work permits or allow youth to sign on their own. Other states have different requirements for different types of jobs. Your state does require a parent or guardian’s signature for the work permit. Since...read more
Does the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act contain parental consent/notification requirements for access to Basic Center programs?
Answer: While the statute itself does not contain such requirements, regulations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Family and Youth Services Bureau do contain a requirement that a program contact a youth’s parents, legal guardians or other...read more
One of our liaisons is trying to help a 15-year-old obtain her birth certificate. Her parents cannot be located. What can we do?
Answer: Our go-to resource for these kinds of questions comes from our colleagues at the National Network for Youth, in this document: https://www.nn4youth.org/wp-content/uploads/Appendix_State-by-State-Non-Driver-Identification-Requirements-FINAL.pdf You can look up...read more
When schools districts begin their school year on different dates, how is school of origin transportation handled at the start of the school year? Is a district of residence expected to provide transportation if they have not yet started their school year? Or, would the school of origin be responsible for providing the transportation until the resident district starts their year?
Answer: McKinney-Vento does not dictate how the transportation has to be split or arranged between the districts, simply that it has to be provided. If the two districts cannot agree, they split the cost equally. However, the districts could come up with any...read more
How best would a district “certify” McKinney-Vento status for an unaccompanied graduate who never identified his living situation while in high school? He is now attempting to enroll in college and would like to indicate unaccompanied youth homelessness for purposes of completing FAFSA.
Answer: The student should indicate his status on the FAFSA as an unaccompanied homeless youth. If he completes the FAFSA online, there will be an option for him to indicate his homeless status, and to indicate that he does not have a determination from the liaison....read more
If an unaccompanied youth’s caregiver has a fixed, regular, and adequate place to stay, does the youth meet the McKinney-Vento definition of homeless? Should my thinking be more geared to the living situation of the youth’s parents/guardians, the youth, or the caregiver?
Answer: The analysis should focus on the student’s living situation; but the parent’s or guardian’s living situation also can be a factor. With respect to choosing the school of origin versus the local school, the McKinney-Vento Act states that, "The choice regarding...read more
Do students in foster care automatically qualify for Title I services? And if they do, do they exit when they are reunited?
Answer: The assurances on foster care in both the state Title I plan and the local Title I plan cover all children in foster care, regardless of their academic standing. Therefore, we think it is very reasonable to conclude that all children in foster care are...read more
We received a grant to pilot a program where McKinney-Vento students are provided with a one-to-one mentor, who are teachers or other school staff. All meetings will be at the school, and the program will be voluntary. Are we breaching confidentiality by revealing that these students are McKinney-Vento eligible? Most will be minors – Do we need to have parent permission or notification that this is happening?
Answer: It is not a Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) violation to share information on these students’ McKinney-Vento eligibility with their mentors. FERPA specifically allows the sharing of education records without parent consent to other school...read more
We have a student staying with her grandmother (father incarcerated; mother is homeless and involved in drugs). The student goes to one of our magnet schools. Due to a number of problems in the grandmother’s life, the student’s attendance has been poor. The school counselor has told the grandmother that due to excessive absences, the student is denied acceptance for the 17-18 school year. Grandmother has come to me asking for my help in keeping her granddaughter at the magnet school. How does McKinney-Vento apply to this situation?
Answer: There are two issues here. One is a question of best interest. The student has the right to remain in the school of origin for the duration of homelessness, if that is in her best interest. In this case, the absences would be part of the best interest...read more
A McKinney-Vento family is dealing with a massive flea infestation where they are staying. They have brought the fleas to school many times, and the district has had to fumigate the classroom. Can the principal use McKinney-Vento funds to pay to fumigate the family’s home?
Answer: The core question in this situation is whether the fleas are creating a barrier to the students’ education. It appears that the students are attending school, and the fleas are not creating a health risk or preventing the children from participating fully in...read more
I am working with an unaccompanied youth who has been invited to play basketball with a club team. Mom is unwilling to sign the release for her to play. DHS (child welfare) is involved, and we are working with the caseworker to sign the release, but we are not sure if that will happen. Participating in this club basketball team is keeping this youth engaged and successful in school, and opening doors to higher education. Does McKinney-Vento apply to full participation in club sports?
Answer: The term “club sport” can mean different things in different places, so first, we need to clarify that club basketball is a school activity, and not a community league or otherwise not directly connected to school. If club basketball is not a school activity,...read more
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...read more
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...read more
Can McKinney-Vento set-aside funds be used to pay for credit recovery for a MV student? Not to “get ahead,” but only for the purposes of catching up with classes that the student did not pass earlier.
Answer: The short answer is yes, both McKinney-Vento funds, and the Title I Part A homeless setaside funds, may be used for this purpose. The U.S. Department of Education guidance states that Title I Part A setaside funds may be used for homeless students if the...read more
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...read more
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...read more
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...read more
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...read more
If a court-involved student is attending a GED program run by a college and is no longer connected to any school district, is the previous district required to provide transportation?
Answer: No. Since the student will not be enrolled in an LEA, the school district is not required to transport. McKinney-Vento would not require the GED program to transport either, although you are right that the liaison and student should see if the college or GED...read more