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Homeless Students Burden Schools

The excitement surrounding the start of the fall semester is dampened by the number of homeless children enrolled in public schools.  New York City, the nation's largest system, is a case in point ("1 in 7 New York City Elementary Students Will Be Homeless, Report Says," The New York Times, Aug. 16).  Over the last six years, more than 140,000 students there have been homeless, according to a report by the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness.

If the trend continues, that means one in every seven public school students will be homeless during elementary school.  The harm done is enormous.  They are more likely to be suspended or drop out, not to mention the lifelong trauma that homelessness leaves on them.  I wonder how many such students are enrolled in charter schools.  I say that because traditional public schools always are the schools of last resort.  Comparing their outcomes with that of charter schools has always seemed unfair.

The cause of the increase in the number of homeless students is largely due to the rise in rents in New York City.  But I believe the problem of homeless children is nationwide for the same reason.  Rents consume a disproportionate share of monthly income everywhere. During the 28 years I taught in the Los Angeles Unified School District, I was fortunate not to have any homeless students.  But other teachers did.  Although the attendance office listed an actual address, mail sent there was returned. 

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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