Although state legislatures will not begin considering new legislation until early next year, SchoolHouse Connection and our state policy partners have been working feverishly for months to prepare. Last week, our first bill was introduced. Representative Mary Gonzalez filed Texas HB 99 on the very first day for bill filing in Texas. SchoolHouse Connection drafted the bill in consultation with her office and with support from McKinney-Vento liaisons and advocates. HB 99 would provide college students experiencing homelessness with automatic eligibility for housing assistance and priority for student housing, and require colleges and universities to designate a liaison for students experiencing homelessness. The liaisons would be required to participate in professional development about student homelessness and provide students with information about all available services, including financial aid, housing, food programs, and counseling services. Also in Texas, HB 231 seeks state funding for transportation for students experiencing homelessness.
Texas is one of several states where SchoolHouse Connection is working with state-based partners to improve state laws for children and youth experiencing homelessness. In Nevada, the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth invited us to facilitate the public policy session at their recent Southern Nevada Youth Homelessness Summit. Based on the results of the Southern Nevada Plan to End Youth Homelessness and input from stakeholders at the Summit, we are working on bill language to facilitate access to vital documents for unaccompanied youth and to combat the criminalization of youth experiencing homelessness. We also learned from McKinney-Vento liaisons and the Nevada State Coordinator that school districts are struggling to award partial credit to students experiencing homelessness. Consistent with the McKinney-Vento Act’s requirement that states identify and remove barriers that prevent students from receiving credit for full or partial prior coursework, Nevada’s State Coordinator identified state policies as a barrier. We worked together with her and the State Department of Education to draft a bill to address this barrier, so that the mobility and academic interruption caused by homelessness do not prevent students from graduating high school. The State Department of Education shared our draft with the Legislative Committee on Education, which submitted an official bill draft request (34-394) in August.
We are working on additional policy proposals in the areas of child care, minor consent, expungement of juvenile records, higher education, employment, and transportation in Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah. We also have multiple tools to help advocates across the country to support policy changes at the state and federal level.
Even as we work on legislation for 2019, we are monitoring the implementation of our successful 2018 bill in Tennessee. HB 2303, which passed both houses of Tennessee’s legislature with only two opposing votes, allows children and youth of any age experiencing homelessness to obtain their birth certificate and state ID. We recently met with service providers, McKinney-Vento liaisons and other advocates in Tennessee to plan our 2019 advocacy and ask about implementation of HB 2303. Based on concerns regarding implementation, we plan to work with legal services and state agencies to streamline processes for youth and increase training of staff providing IDs and birth certificates.
Learn more about our state policy work and resources to support your policy advocacy here.