Findings from a U.S. Department of Education study found that school districts nationwide reported nearly 957,000 homeless students were enrolled during the 2008-2009 school year, a 41-percent increase compared to the previous two school years.
Data was unavailable for the recently concluded 2009-2010 school year. The report was released in June.
The data shows a direct correlation to economic troubles suffered by families from the Great Recession and federal mandates under the McKinney-Vento Act to provide educational services to homeless students, according to Barbara J. Duffield, policy director at the National Association for Educating Homeless Children and Youth in Washington, D.C. The recession began in earnest during the fall of 2007 and recently just concluded this past spring.
School systems reported the figures via the DOE’s online EDFacts data collection system and as part of the Consolidated State Performance Report, a data collection tool administered by the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. It is important to note that nearly 300 more local education agencies responded for the 2008-2009 school year than did in 2006-2007 and 2007-2008. Responses were logged for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Puerto Rico. Reporting schools also represented both those with and without McKinney-Vento subgrants.
From 2007-2008 to 2008-2009, 23 states reported at least a 20 percent increase in total homeless students, and another 21 states reported an increase of up to 19 percent. The Bureau of Indian Affairs reported largest increases over each of the past three school years with a whopping 620 percent increase in the number of homeless youth served. It reported a 116 percent spike from 2006-2007 to 2007-2008 and a 234 percent increase from 2008-2009.
Meanwhile, for the 2008-2009 school year alone, California reported a total of 288,233 homeless students to outdistance the next highest ranked states by at least a three-to-one ratio. Texas finished second with 80,940 homeless students followed by New York with 76,117 and Florida with 40.967.