II. Education Policy & Student Homelessness

California Local Control Funding Formula & Youth Homelessness Resources

In California’s K-12 schools, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), has changed how local educational agencies (LEAs) in the state are funded and how local decision makers choose to allocate state education dollars. LCFF directs additional funds to districts based on the number of students who are low-income, English Learners, and in the foster care or child welfare system (California Department of Education, 2019f). 4 million of over 6.3 million students in the state are low-income (66%; California Department of Education, 2019f), 1.1 million are English Learners (19%; California Department of Education; California Language Census, 2019g) and 47,000 students are in foster care (0.7%; California Department of Education, 2019i). Young people experiencing homelessness may simultaneously be in any or all of the previously listed categories. Yet, there is no dedicated state funding stream within the LCFF formula to support students experiencing homelessness (California Department of Education, 2019c), as there are for low-income, foster youth and English Learners. In order to support students who are experiencing homelessness, the California Department of Education currently only funds a limited number of county offices of education and districts through highly competitive limited federal grant dollars through the Education for Homeless Children and Youth grant, and encourages and relies on districts to reserve Title I, Part A funds., and limited federal grant dollars through the Education for Homeless Children and Youth grant.

Many LEAs choose to use LCFF supplemental and concentration dollars to prioritize academic success of students experiencing homelessness as part of the “low-income” student group which, under the law, is reflected in their Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP).[3] LCAPs are one way to monitor interventions and supports being provided to students experiencing homelessness. The California School Dashboard disaggregates by academic performance, academic engagement, and conditions and climate data by student group, including students experiencing homelessness, making it possible to monitor their progress across the state.

California Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS)

More than 600 districts and 14 pilot school sites are implementing a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS),[4] an effort that the Center for the Transformation of Schools (CTS) at UCLA is co-leading with the Orange County Department of Education and Butte County Office of Education. This systems approach to organizing schools around the needs of students to support learning and promote positive discipline, employs the use of inclusive practices (e.g., curriculum design, drawing from students’ experiences and expertise, and fostering respectful environments) to meet students’ academic, social and emotional needs. The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), aligned to California’s Eight State Priorities, provide the infrastructure for building a statewide system of support. California’s Multi-Tiered System of Support Framework can be a driver for implementation.

MTSS is an evidence-based and comprehensive vision for addressing system-wide and instructional changes necessary to lift up students and families that have been historically underserved by schools. These include including low-income students, students of color, English Learners, foster youth, students experiencing homelessness, LGBTQ-identifying young people, and students with disabilities. While preliminary research shows that MTSS is a promising, multifaceted approach for delivering support to students (Stoiber & Gettinger, 2016), several of the individuals we interviewed noted that MTSS implementation could help provide heightened or targeted supports for students experiencing homelessness as an implementation framework for LCFF.

[3] The state Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) template can be found here: https://www.cde.ca.gov/re/lc/documents/lcaptemplate2020.docx
[4] More information about the California MTSS initiative can be found at https://ocde.us/MTSS/Pages/CA-MTSS.aspx

The Federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (MVA)

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, MVA, was reauthorized as part of the Federal Government’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). MVA serves as the primary federal policy mechanism specifically designed to support the educational success of students experiencing homelessness. MVA requires that all students experiencing homelessness age 21 and under, be afforded access to public education. Under the law, all school districts, charters, states, and postsecondary institutions, when applicable, are required to remove barriers to enrollment, attendance, and educational success for students experiencing homelessness. However, merely 106 of 1,037 school districts (9%) in California received federal funding from MVA to meet the mandates of the law. Those 106 subgrants, which total over $10 million (see Tables 2, 3, and 4) touch 36% (approximately 97,000 young people) or 1 in 3 youth among the total student population experiencing homelessness. This means that a majority of students and LEAs receive no dedicated federal funds to support the educational success of students experiencing homelessness. Table 2 shows how the California Department of Education allocates MVA funds. Table 3 and Table 4 shows a list of districts in California receiving one and three-year MVA subgrants. This list does not include County Offices of Education who are included in the 106 communities receiving subgrants.

Table 2. Funding Formula for California McKinney Vento Act Subgrants

Number of Enrolled Homeless
Children and Youth
Maximum Funding Amount
over 5,000$250,000
Note. Data on this table were retrieved from the California Department of Education, 2020.

Table 3. LEAs that Received One-Time McKinney Vento Funding

DistrictHomeless Cumulative Enrollment*†2019-20 Award
Hacienda La Puente Unified800$42,000
Lindsay Unified367$42,000
East Whittier City Elementary264$41,900

Table 4. LEAs that Received 3-Year McKinney-Vento Funding

District Homeless Cumulative Enrollment*? 2019-20
Los Angeles Unified 18,979 $250,000 
Santa Ana Unified 6,970 $250,000 
Moreno Valley Unified 4,846 $250,000 
Norwalk-La Mirada Unified 5,417 $250,000 
Pomona Unified 3,061 $175,000 
Ontario-Montclair 2,528 $175,000 
San Juan Unified 3,305 $175,000 
Pajaro Valley Unified 3,208 $175,000 
Twin Rivers Unified 3,223 $175,000 
Rowland Unified 3,620 $175,000 
Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified 3,391 $175,000 
Chino Valley Unified 2,696 $175,000 
Riverside Unified 2,652 $175,000 
Anaheim Elementary 1,966 $125,000 
Magnolia Elementary 1,814 $125,000 
San Ysidro Elementary 1,390 $125,000 
Merced Union High 724 $75,000 
Lancaster Elementary 1,371 $75,000 
Oakland Unified 1,179 $75,000 
Lucia Mar Unified 1,030 $75,000 
Escondido Union Elementary 1,320 $75,000 
Stockton Unified 2,148 $75,000 
Westminster 775 $75,000 
West Contra Costa Unified 1,042 $75,000 
Manteca Unified 1,082 $75,000 
Natomas Unified 375 $75,000 
Pasadena Unified 829 $75,000 
Elk Grove Unified 725 $75,000 
San Luis Coastal Unified 642 $75,000 
Robla Elementary 550 $75,000 
Fairfield-Suisun Unified 499 $75,000 
Palm Springs Unified 2,391 $75,000 
Roseville Joint Union High 369 $75,000 
Eureka City Schools 366 $75,000 
Lynwood Unified 549 $50,000 
Center Joint Unified 347 $50,000 
Poway Unified 289 $50,000 
Little Lake City Elementary 279 $50,000 
South Whittier Elementary 148 $50,000 
Bear Valley Unified 249 $50,000 
Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified 261 $50,000 
Ukiah Unified 374 $25,000 
Marysville Joint Unified 352 $25,000 
McFarland Unified 233 $25,000 
San Leandro Unified 157 $25,000 
Alameda Unified 94 $25,000 
Torrance Unified 223 $25,000 
Placerville Union Elementary 79 $15,000 

†Cumulative enrollment is calculated at each reporting level (e.g., district, county, etc.) and therefore is not necessarily additive from one reporting level to the next.

A recent survey of over 650 California homeless liaisons found that more must be done to fully fund and implement MVA federal requirements (Piazza & Hyatt, 2019a). The survey revealed that most liaisons have difficulty fulfilling the MVA’s requirements to meet student academic needs because of recurring challenges in providing basic needs and services, including access health care, dental services, and mental health and substance abuse services. The extent of liaisons’ responsibilities have, in many cases, become so expansive, that more resources and staffing are needed to meet the intent of MVA.

Despite clear limitations with MVA implementation, mostly related to its funding levels, state LEA grantees shared examples of ways that they are using their grant resources to improve the educational trajectories of students experiencing homelessness. Several examples of how LEAs are using funds are highlighted below.

One MVA grantee has been able to use its state grant to hire a full-time liaison who has become an invaluable connection point between students, families, motel managers, faith-based organizations, and nonprofits in the area. Such coordinated efforts are critical to helping students obtain school supplies, securing donations for students, and supporting student attendance in a summer camp after the school year. She explained their strategic use of funds.

“We’ve hired a full-time liaison, and that makes all the difference in the world. Her role specifically is she goes to the local motels. She reaches out to the motel managers. She knows those families. She goes and knocks on the doors to faith-based organizations. They were able to send kids, pre-COVID, to summer camp, for instance. So it’s really just having a person that’s really able to do that. And she has been the person. She’s a social worker by trade and makes sure that the resources are connected to the family. But I think it’s being in the community. She reaches out and gets donations all the time.”

One rural county grantee has been able to reach more than half of its districts as a result of obtaining additional resources and leadership training. It has also been able to support professional learning for classroom teachers and staff through online training.

“We trained over 200 people last year, looking at our data. The issue is it’s difficult to get to our registrars, to our teachers, to our bus drivers. Now we actually have online training. So at least now, we’re extending that to our teachers, to everyone. And everyone’s required to take that training. I’m very excited. It’s not the same as in person, but just the awareness and who I contact is huge. So we have 15 districts that could actually use that same program and push it out into their districts. So that’s about half of our county.”

Several MVA grantees described strategic efforts to boost college preparation and college-going for students experiencing homelessness. One such initiative has been developing an extensive college access resource website for students who are trying to navigate the complexities of college eligibility and application processes.

“We were asking students, do you want to know how to get to college? We developed a 100 page resource site with information. Over and over, we get responses from our students and from counselors and liaisons, that if we had not assisted them, they would not have completed the FAFSA. And they probably would not have gone to college. That’s really the truth.”

Grantees also shared how they have used MVA subgrants or Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) resources to prioritize mental health services, counseling, after school tutoring, and many other innovative strategies. In the following section, we discuss key findings from additional interviews with stakeholders. They describe some of the challenges in meeting the educational and basic needs of students and families experiencing homelessness.