The 2019 state legislative season is in full swing, and SchoolHouse Connection is co-leading advocacy on 17 bills in 8 states (IN, KY, ME, MO, NV, TN, TX, UT). We’re also supporting advocates on policy reforms in five additional states (AZ, CA, GA, MD, WA), and anticipate additional bills to be filed in LA, NJ, and NC.

SchoolHouse Connection engages in state policy advocacy in partnership with local child and youth advocates, McKinney-Vento liaisons and State Coordinators, homeless service providers, colleges and universities, and civic organizations. Most importantly, young people with lived experienced of homelessness are partners every step of the way, from prioritizing bill topics and drafting language, through the legislative advocacy process.

At our first legislative hearing of the year, Denise Tanata of Children’s Advocacy Alliance emceed a panel of witnesses before the Nevada Assembly Committee on Education, including the Nevada McKinney-Vento State Coordinator, the McKinney-Vento liaison from Nye County School District, and Sarah Robbins, a college student who experienced homelessness in high school. Watching this testimony, particularly Sarah’s, can give other advocates some tips for how to present the issue of education and homelessness to the legislature.

“School served as an escape for me, from my violently unstable home life. It is where I felt as if I had control and where I could thrive. An education is something that once received by a person, it cannot be taken away. And for many like myself, it is the only opportunity I will get to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness, to which I belong.” – Sarah Robbins

In Kentucky, Representatives David Meade (R) and Joni Jenkins (D) presented HB 378 to the House Education Committee on March 5. Two McKinney-Vento Liaisons from Paducah Public Schools and Erlanger/Elsmere School District also attended the hearing to testify. With support from SchoolHouse Connection and the Children’s Alliance, the bill passed out of the committee on consent. Next stop: the Senate!

The topics of the seventeen bills SHC currently is working on include:

  • Promoting higher education completion (liaisons, housing, tuition waiver).
  • Promoting high school graduation (partial credits, alternative diplomas).
  • Empowering unaccompanied homeless youth to consent for mental health care, shelter/housing, and other services.
  • Empowering unaccompanied homeless youth to access vital documents.
  • Strengthening tax credits for employers who hire youth experiencing homelessness.

Details and links for bills that have been filed follow. We will update this information as new bills are filed, as well as providing information about hearings, votes, and final bill passage. Hearings and votes are happening weekly, so check back frequently!

Promoting higher education completion

Indiana
HB 1152 would establish the student hunger and homelessness study committee, to:

  • Study the prevalence of homelessness, housing insecurity, and food insecurity among students at Indiana colleges and universities.
  • Provide suggestions for eliminating those issues.
  • Report the results to the governor and legislature by July, 2020.

Maine
LD 866, HP 640 would:

  • Require institutions of higher education to designate a Liaison for students experiencing homelessness.
  • Require institutions of higher education to prioritize students experiencing homelessness for access to existing on-campus housing, develop a plan to provide students experiencing homelessness with housing during school breaks, and allow students experiencing homelessness who are enrolled part-time to access on-campus housing during their first year of school.
  • Expand the tuition waiver for state postsecondary educational institutions to include students experiencing homelessness.

Tennessee
HB 1000 and its companion bill SB 763 would require postsecondary institutions to:

  • Designate a Homeless Student Liaison, who will assist students experiencing homelessness in applying for and receiving financial aid and available services.
  • Give students experiencing homelessness priority access to on-campus housing, including housing that remains open the most days of the year.

Texas
HB 809 would:

  • Require existing Higher Education Foster Liaisons to support students experiencing homelessness who were not in foster care.
  • Provide Liaisons with basic professional development.
  • Require institutions of higher education to prioritize students experiencing homelessness for access to existing on-campus housing and to assist them in locating housing during academic breaks.

Promoting high school graduation

Indiana
SB 464 would:

  • Allow unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness age 16 and older to take the high school equivalency exam without parental consent and at no cost.

*Passed Senate

Kentucky
HB 378 would:

  • Require the KY Department of Education to promulgate regulations regarding students experiencing homelessness, including awarding and accepting partial credit, facilitating enrollment in required classes, and providing for diplomas from a prior district or for meeting state minimum requirements for students who change schools in their last two years of high school.

*Passed both chambers; sent to Governor

Nevada
SB 147 would:

  • Provide students experiencing homelessness with partial credits for partial coursework satisfactorily completed.
  • Require school districts to review and adjust the academic plans of students experiencing homelessness to maximize credit accrual and progress toward graduation.
  • Require school districts to award any diploma students experiencing homelessness have earned if they transfer schools in 11th or 12th grade.

* Passed Senate Education committee.

Empowering unaccompanied homeless youth to receive mental health care, shelter/housing, and other services

Kentucky
HB 378 would:

  • Allow youth age 16 or older to receive outpatient mental health counseling from any qualified mental health professional without parental consent.

* We lost this piece of the bill in a last-minute amendment.

Maine
LD 1275, SP 395 would:

  • Improve minors’ ability to consent for medical, mental, dental and other health counseling and services by removing time requirements and allowing minors to prove they are living separately from parents through various means, including a statement from a governmental or nonprofit agency that provides homeless service, a school district liaison, or an attorney representing the minor.
  • Protects health care practitioners from liability for treating minors (except for liability for their own negligent or willful acts).

Missouri
HB 1036 would:

  • Provide youth who were in foster care at any time after age 13 to receive Medicaid health coverage until age 26.

HB 1035 would:

  • Allow and facilitate access to mental health care for unaccompanied homeless youth age 15 and older.
  • Allow and facilitate access to housing, shelter, related services, and medical care for unaccompanied homeless youth age 15 and older.

HB 1028 would:

  • Clarify that being an unaccompanied homeless youth, in and of itself, is not sufficient basis for reporting child abuse or neglect.

Utah
HB 371 would:

  • Allow licensed shelters and providers to serve homeless youth without criminal penalties.
  • Allow homeless youth 15 and older to consent for shelter and services.

* Passed both chambers, sent to governor.

Empowering unaccompanied homeless youth to access vital documents

Indiana
SB 464 would:

  • Allow unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness age 16 and older to apply for a driver’s license, obtain a state ID, and obtain a copy of their birth certificates without parental consent and without a fee.

Kentucky
HB 378 would:

  • Waive birth certificate fees for children and youth experiencing homelessness.

*Passed both chambers; sent to Governor

Missouri
HB 1074 would:

  • Waive birth certificate fees for homeless parents and unaccompanied homeless youth
  • Provide unaccompanied homeless youth the right to obtain their own birth certificate without parental consent.

Nevada
A bill expected to be filed imminently would waive fees for birth certificates, identification cards, and driver’s licenses for youth experiencing homelessness. To be filed by Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson.

Utah
HB 465 would:

  • Waive birth certificate fees and photo ID fees for children and youth experiencing homelessness.

* This bill actually got added to HB 371 as an amendment. So, while this bill did not pass, the policy has passed both chambers and sent to governor.

Strengthening tax credits for employers who hire youth experiencing homelessness.

Utah
HB 181 would amend Utah’s tax credit for employers that hire people experiencing homelessness to:

  • Revise the definition of “homeless” to be more inclusive, particularly of young people.
  • Facilitate the issuance of tax credit certificates to employers that hire people experiencing homelessness.

*Past both chambers, sent to governor.

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