This policy brief builds upon our 2020 analysis of student homelessness statewide to examine district-level data for 10 districts across the state.
In 2021, California made historic investments to help students and schools recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, adversely impacting schools and students experiencing homelessness, limiting the scope and application of student data, and creating new challenges for teaching and learning. 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.
As we reported in our 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. Of those, 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. 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 begun to hinder data accuracy for students and their families experiencing homelessness. 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 we developed that displays educational discrepancies between districts for unhoused young people. This analysis is accompanied by district, county, and state policy recommendations.
- Utilize localized academic data to create and inform school boards, educators, and the public of recurring patterns including enrollment data and student educational outcomes, disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and subgroup (e.g., English language learners, students with disabilities, gender) for more targeted support.
- Prioritize funds to address student “learning lag” and other disparities in student academic outcomes caused by the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students experiencing homelessness (Pier et al., 2021). This disproportionality is especially true for “historically underserved populations such as rural children and youth, Tribal children and youth, students of color, children and youth with disabilities, English learners, LGBTQ+ youth, and pregnant, parenting, or caregiving students experiencing homelessness” as highlighted by the U.S. Department of Education.
- Develop and implement a system that verifies that LEAs provide the required training to school personnel serving youth experiencing homelessness at least annually, as detailed in Senate Bill No. 400.
- Facilitate coordination between state coordinators, Local Education Agency liaisons, health and human service agencies, cross-sector agencies, and related community-based organizations to provide wraparound services. These services include mental health, family services, tutoring, after-school programs, transportation, housing, and basic needs, among other supports.
- Construct publicly downloadable datasets for students experiencing homelessness that disaggregate education indicators by race to be utilized by homeless education stakeholders. Currently, publicly available text (TXT) data files only disaggregate data along one reporting dimension and do not provide cross-tabulated values (e.g., homeless by race/ethnicity).
- Consider “geographic diversity and concentrations of homeless children and youths and unaccompanied youths” in the establishment of homeless education technical assistance centers (HE TACs), as suggested in the AB-27 bill (Rivas et al., 2021). Public research such as the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools’ interactive map highlights counties with the highest concentration of students experiencing homelessness disaggregated by race and ethnicity.