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One thing's for sure — education paves the road out of poverty and homelessness. But for a surging number of kids, homelessness interferes with attaining a good education. This fall, Congress will decide how much money to spend educating homeless kids. We need to ring the bell of our lawmakers, letting them know homeless students count.

The McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth Act provides the framework but it's been woefully underfunded, $65 million for FY10, with a short burst of stimulus funds that's ending unless Congress reconsiders when they come back from their summer recess.

We suggest a funding level of $140 million.

Letter to
U.S. House of Representatives
Sadly, families easily fall into homelessness. In the 2008-09 school year, students without homes numbered close to 1 million, not including their parents and younger/older siblings. Schools and students alike struggle with this surging condition.

The McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth Act (EHCY) provides vital support for both students and schools grappling with homelessness. Funding for this essential program remains abysmally low, FY '10 a paltry $65 million. To its credit, Congress awarded an additional $70 million of stimulus funds to offset the expense of educating the skyrocketing numbers of homeless students, but those funds are expiring way before homelessness abates.

Homelessness is associated with a higher likelihood of multiple school transfers, missing school (truancy), dropout, and/or lower standardized test scores. Thus, homeless students often require additional supports if they are to be able to participate in any educational program. Indeed, the most promising instructional strategy or academic program will be of little benefit to children and youth who have not been identified, cannot get to school, or who are constantly changing schools due to the instability of their homeless situation.

The Education for Homeless Children and Youth program removes barriers to homeless student enrollment, attendance, and success in elementary and secondary education. There is no other federal education program that does what it does: the EHCY program is unique in its focus on finding, enrolling, and supporting our poorest children and youth.

We urge at least $140 million to fund EHCY.

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