Idaho Lands On Top 10 List For Increase In Homeless Students

Dec 13, 2013

More than 6,000 Idaho students were homeless during the 2011/2012 school year. That's .5 percent of all public school kids.
Credit BionicTeaching / Flickr Creative Commons

Student homelessness in Idaho has grown by 27 percent, putting the state in a list of 10 that have seen the largest increase in the number of kids without stable, reliable homes. That data from the U.S. Department of Education measured growth from the 2010/2011 school year to 2011/2012.

Idaho’s increase in student homelessness is even larger when measured over a three year period. Stretching back to the 2009 school year, Idaho schools have seen a 40 percent increase in homelessness.

Idaho Department of Education spokesperson Melissa McGrath says the agency knew there’d be a sizeable increase in student homelessness during that time, thanks in large part to the recession.

“There are two things at play,” McGrath says. “The economy – that’s pretty obvious, and another thing is that in Idaho, compared to other states,  we’ve been better at collecting this data.”

McGrath says improved data collection means they’re able to more accurately count how many students might not have stable place to sleep at night.

The federal education department asks states to determine which students don’t have a “primary nighttime residence.” Those students may sleep at a shelter or in transitional housing. They may be waiting for foster care, or living with someone else because their house isn’t available. It also may mean students have an even less stable place to sleep like in a car, tent, abandoned buildings or temporary trailers.

Even though the year-over-year increase in student homelessness has grown, the total number of homeless students enrolled in Idaho’s public school system is less than 1 percent. During the 2011/2012 school year, 6,076 students were considered homeless. In 2010/2011 that number was 4,774.

Preliminary data from the Idaho Department of Education suggests the homeless rate will shrink below where it’s been the last few years. Schools estimate 3,815 students are homeless this school year.

The biggest impact on Idaho schools when student homelessness increases tend to be budgetary and making sure those students have support and resources to keep them enrolled and attending class. Each district has a liaison available for children who need this kind of support.

Seven Idaho school districts with large numbers of homeless students receive federal grant money that allow them to buy things like gas vouchers or hotel stays for students in need. The grants can also pay for staff and tutors.

These are the top 10 states where student homelessness grew by more than 20 percent from 2010-2012:

  1. North Dakota
  2. Maine
  3. North Carolina
  4. Michigan
  5. Wyoming
  6. South Dakota
  7. Vermont
  8. Idaho
  9. Missouri
  10. Oklahoma

The full report from the National Center for Homeless Education can be found here.

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