Homeless children and education

The original federal Act, known as simply as the McKinney Act, provided little protection for homeless children in the area of public education. As a result, the State of Illinois passed the Illinois Education for Homeless Children Act, which was drafted by Joseph Clary, an attorney and advocate for the Illinois Coalition to End Homelessness. Clary then worked with national advocates to ensure that the protections afforded to homeless children by the Illinois statute were incorporated into the McKinney Act. That point, the McKinney Act was amended to become the McKinney-Vento Act. That Act uses the Illinois statute in defining homeless children as “individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.” The Act then goes on to give examples of children who would fall under this definition:

    (a) Children sharing housing due to economic hardship or loss of housing;
    (b) Children living in “motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camp grounds due to lack of alternative accommodations”
    (c) Children living in “emergency or transitional shelters”
    (d) Children “awaiting foster care placement”
    (e) Children whose primary nighttime residence is not ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation (e.g. park benches, etc)
    (f) Children living in “cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations…”

Following the Illinois statute, the McKinney-Vento Act also ensures homeless children transportation to and from school free of charge, allowing children to attend their school of origin (last school enrolled or the school they attended when they first become homeless) regardless of what district the family resides in. It further requires schools to register homeless children even if they lack normally required documents, such as immunization records or proof of residence. To implement the Act, States must designate a statewide homeless coordinator to review policies and create procedures, including dispute resolution procedures, to ensure that homeless children are able to attend school. Local school districts must appoint Local Education Liaisons to ensure that school staff are aware of these rights, to provide public notice to homeless families (at shelters and at school) and to facilitate access to school and transportation services.