State of Crisis: Understanding School District Educational Patterns for CA Students Experiencing Homelessness 

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Explore the table to discover student homelessness data for any school district within California using our new Interactive Table.


In 2021, California made historic investments to help students and schools recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 2020, the pandemic has adversely impacted schools and students experiencing homelessness, limited the scope and application of student data, and created new challenges for teaching and learning (CDE, 2022a). Additionally, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the pandemic has exacerbated the already present “discrimination experienced by racial and ethnic minority groups and people experiencing homelessness” (HUD, 2022, p.5). 

While the future after this pandemic is unclear, we must continue to support students experiencing homelessness and address the long-standing inequities that this vulnerable student group faces. Recent data from the National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE) reports that the number of students experiencing homelessness enrolled in public schools nationwide and reported by state educational agencies (SEAs) during the 2018-19 school year was 1,387,573, a 3% increase over the three previous years (NCHE, 2021). Of those young people, roughly 270,000 students, or one out of five students nationally, live in California. Students experiencing homelessness are in nearly every district in California—each district with unique educational needs. Each year, California data show that Latinx, Black, American Indian or Alaska Native, and Pacific Islander students are disproportionately affected by homelessness. As reported by the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools’ (CTS) 2020 statewide analysis on student homelessness, State of Crisis: Dismantling Student Homelessness in California, the number of students experiencing homelessness has risen nearly 50% in the last decade—a statistic cited in the recently passed AB-27 bill (Bishop et al., 2020; Rivas et al., 2021). This increase has made it difficult to support students experiencing homelessness through policy alone, especially in school districts and counties with only one homeless liaison. Immediate support is essential. The pandemic has hindered data accuracy about students and families experiencing homelessness. Annual 2021-2022 California Department of Education data on student homelessness reveals an approximate 17% decline in the population of students experiencing homelessness in California since the 2018-2019 school year, suggesting student identification loss during the pandemic (CDE, 2021). Similarly, in a 2020 report by SchoolHouse Connection, researchers highlight a 28% decrease in the number of students experiencing homelessness identified amidst the pandemic (SchoolHouse Connection, 2020). Data accuracy will be critical in identifying students experiencing homelessness, the challenges they face, and how to best support them in their educational trajectories. With unprecedented federal funding of nearly $100 million as part of the American Rescue Plan Act for Homeless Children and Youth (ARP-HCY), we must now, more than ever, seek transformative ways to address and support the needs of students experiencing homelessness across the state.

This brief examines publicly available district-level data across a set of variables that illuminate the educational experiences of students experiencing homelessness. This investigation is based on a new interactive table developed by UCLA’s Center for the Transformation of Schools that displays educational discrepancies between districts among unhoused young people that families, educators, policymakers, community-based organizations (CBOs), and researchers can use to explore homeless student data for every county and school district in California. This analysis is accompanied by district, county, and state policy recommendations. Our goal is for readers to use available data as a tool to support equitable educational outcomes for students experiencing homelessness in California.

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