Answer: An important preliminary question for this answer is when the school knew the student was experiencing homelessness. If the school knew earlier, and knew the parent was transporting the child to the school of origin, then reimbursement is the school’s responsibility. The school should have provided the parent with information on the reimbursement procedures from the outset. It would violate the McKinney-Vento Act for the school to deny her reimbursement now, when they’ve known all along that the parent was providing transportation to the school of origin. (See citation below.)
This also would be the case if the district should have known the family was homeless. For example, if the district’s identification strategies are not robust and they missed a student they should have found, then again, they need to support the family. The legal references would be the duty to identify homeless students, and the requirement to transport to the school of origin (language pasted below).
If the district told the parent she would need to turn in receipts, and she simply failed to do so, that’s a bit more complicated. Still, given the stress and upheaval of homelessness, it’s a lot to ask a parent to save receipts and turn them in. It’s a very common practice for districts to estimate the transportation cost and provide gas cards or funding commensurate to those estimated costs. The federal government has a website to estimate trip costs based on a car’s gas mileage: https://www.fueleconomy.gov/trip/. Some districts use this to calculate school of origin trip costs because it can be so hard for parents to save gas receipts. You just need to find out what kind of car she was driving; the website will calculate her gas mileage against the trip distance to determine the gas cost. If you multiply the roundtrip cost, including tolls, by two (for the morning and the afternoon), and then multiply that by the number of days the student attended school after becoming homeless, that would give you an excellent cost estimate.
“(6) LOCAL EDUCATIONAL AGENCY LIAISON-
`(A) DUTIES- Each local educational agency liaison for homeless children and youths, designated under paragraph (1)(J)(ii), shall ensure that–
`(i) homeless children and youths are identified by school personnel through outreach and coordination activities with other entities and agencies;”
42 USC 11432(g)(6)(A)(i).
“(iii) The State and the local educational agencies in the State will adopt policies and practices to ensure that transportation is provided, at the request of the parent or guardian (or in the case of an unaccompanied youth, the liaison), to and from the school of origin (as determined under paragraph (3))….”
42 USC 11432(g)(1)(J)(iii).