SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — An audit released by the California State Auditor on Thursday showed that the California Department of Education and local education agencies (LEAs) fail to identify and support students experiencing homelessness.
The audit was requested in March by Assemblymembers David Chiu (D-San Francisco), James Ramos (D-Highland), and Luz Rivas (D-Arleta) and found that LEAs do not accurately identify homeless students or provide them with the proper services.
It was requested after data compiled by the Department of Education showed that over 25% of schools in the state reported having no students experiencing homelessness despite high rates of homelessness in the state, rising housing costs, and the definition of homelessness under the McKinney-Veto Homeless Assistance Act.
Under the act, all LEAs, including charter schools, are required to identify enrolled homeless, report that data to federal and state governments, and provide those students with services. Few LEAs actually do so, according to the State Auditor’s office.
Some of these services include access to Head Start programs, district-funded transportation services, automatic enrollment in school nutrition programs, credit for partial coursework, and the right to a fifth year of high school.
The audit also found that the Department of Education does not provide accurate oversight of the state’s homeless education programs. The department reportedly monitors less than 1% of the state’s 2,300 LEAs’ homeless education programs and does not use collected homeless data to “provide guidance to LEAs that are likely to be under-identifying students experiencing homelessness.”
Auditors found that the training modules previously announced alongside California’s homeless education program have not yet been given to LEAs. Materials related to homelessness were out of date on the Department of Education’s website.
The State Auditor’s office said that youth experiencing homelessness in California during the 2017-2018 school year were often suspended from school, were chronically absent and dropped out of school at double the rate of students not experiencing homelessness. In 2018, 31 percent of homeless students did not graduate from high school.
“While the State Auditor’s report shows we have much work to do, I am hopeful this will frame our efforts in the legislature and in our communities,” said Assemblymember Ramos. “When we can communicate best practices at the state and local level to identify students experiencing homelessness, and link those students and families with the resources they need, we can break the cycle of homelessness for at-risk students and families in the Inland Empire and across California.”