In December 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) reauthorized the McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youths program. Updated guidance was released by the U.S. Department of Education to help school districts understand the amendments to the McKinney-Vento Act, which will take effect October 1, 2016. These changes include the following:
- Greater emphasis on identifying homeless children and youths, requiring that state and local education agencies provide training for staff members to best meet the unique needs of homeless students.
- A focus on ensuring that eligible homeless students have access to academic and extracurricular activities, including magnet schools, summer school, career and technical education, advanced placement, online learning, and charter school programs.
- Ensuring that homeless children and youths remain in their school of origin, which is defined as the school the student attended when permanently housed. The student must be able to remain at this school for the duration of homelessness, or until the end of the school year during which they become permanently housed once more.
- Dispute resolution procedures which now address eligibility issues, school choice, and enrollment. In the event of a dispute between a parent, guardian, or youth and the local educational agency, the student must be immediately enrolled in the school in which he or she sought placement. The student must also be provided transportation to or from the school of origin for the duration of the dispute, at the request of the parent, guardian, or local liaison representing an unaccompanied youth.
- New authority for local liaisons to confirm the eligibility of homeless children and youths for programs offered through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
This guidance and the amended McKinney-Vento Act aim to equip schools with the necessary tools they need to best serve homeless students and ensure that they continue to receive an education. More information and advice for helping homeless students can be found in a fact sheet released by the U.S. Department of Education. If you have questions on how these changes can be implemented within your school district, please contact an Ennis Britton attorney.