As we reach the peak of the state legislative season, SchoolHouse Connection is working on legislation in multiple states.

This week, one of our policy proposals unanimously passed out of the House Education Administration and Planning Subcommittee in Tennessee. The bill, Tennessee HB 2303, would allow unaccompanied homeless youth to obtain their own birth certificates and state IDs without parental signature. It also would require post-secondary institutions to designate Homeless Student Liaisons to assist students experiencing homelessness in receiving financial aid and other services, as well as granting them first priority for housing and placing them in housing facilities that remain open the most days in a calendar year.

Watch a video of the subcommittee’s discussion and vote on the bill, and follow the bill’s progress on the state legislature’s website.

If you are from Tennessee and want to support the bill, there are two immediate opportunities to assist:

  1. Contact your state representative or the Chair of the House Education Administration and Planning Committee today and urge him or her to vote yes on HB 2303, to improve the safety and educational opportunities of youth experiencing homelessness. The bill will be heard in the House Committee on Tuesday, March 20.
  2. Contact your state senator or the Chair of the Senate Education Committee today and urge him or her to vote yes on SB 2591 (this is the Senate version of the same bill), to improve the safety and educational opportunities of youth experiencing homelessness. The bill will be heard in Senate Committee on Wednesday, March 21.

We also congratulate one of our Indiana partners, the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP Indy), who spearheaded House Bill 1314 in Indiana, in collaboration with Connected by 25.

HB 1314 requires data collection on a number of education indicators for students experiencing homelessness, including graduation rates, school discipline rates, and enrollment in preK. In addition, the bill goes beyond data collection by requiring the state to develop a remediation plan to address areas where students experiencing homelessness have disproportionate negative outcomes. The bill recently passed through conference committees with only one vote in opposition in both the House and Senate, and is on its way to becoming law.

Tennessee and Indiana are only two of many states in which SchoolHouse Connection is supporting local advocates and young people in pursuing their policy priorities. We have gathered and trained diverse groups of advocates at our State Advocacy Institutes in Kentucky, New Jersey, and Louisiana, as well.

Through our grassroots approach, we prepare for each Institute by surveying young people in each state about their priorities, needs, and barriers to services. We also survey school district personnel, service providers, community organizations and other stakeholders to learn about their concerns. These surveys determine our unique policy agenda in each state.

We look forward our next State Advocacy Institute in Utah on April 11.  In the fall, we’ll hold Institutes in Maine, Nevada, North Carolina and Rhode Island in the fall.

Please contact Patricia Julianelle if you would like to be involved in those Institutes, or if you are looking for state policy support in your state.

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