The Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act, which was signed into law in 1987, required states to review and revise residency requirements for the enrollment of homeless children and youth to address the challenges that they face in enrolling, attending, and succeeding in school.
This particularly vulnerable population of children has steadily increased over the years. According to Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program data, national estimates from the 2006-07 school year to the 2013-14 school year show the total number of homeless children and youths doubling from 679,724 to 1,301,239 students. Under the McKinney-Vento Act, state educational agencies (SEAs) must ensure that each homeless child and youth has equal access to the same free, appropriate public education, including a public preschool education, as other children and youths. Homeless children and youths must have access to the educational and related services that they need to enable them to meet the same challenging state academic standards to which all students are held. In addition, homeless students may not be separated from the mainstream school environment. SEAs and local educational agencies (LEAs) are required to review and undertake steps to revise laws, regulations, practices, or policies that may act as barriers to the identification, enrollment, attendance, or success in school of homeless children and youths.
The tenets of the law provide children and youth experiencing homelessness with the following:
- Immediate enrollment even when records not present;
- Right to remain in the school of origin, if in the student's best interest;
- Transportation to the school of origin; and
- Support for academic success.
In addition to the aforementioned, the McKinney-Vento Act, as reauthorized under the ESSA, includes, new or changed requirements focused on the following:
- Identification of homeless children and youths;
- Preschool-aged homeless children, including clarification that local liaisons must ensure that these children and their families have access to and receive services, if eligible, under LEA-administered preschool programs, including Head Start, Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (Early Intervention Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities), and other preschool programs administered by the LEA;
- Collaboration and coordination with other service providers, including public and private child welfare and social services agencies; law enforcement agencies; juvenile and family courts; agencies providing mental health services; domestic violence agencies; child care providers; runaway and homeless youth centers; providers of services and programs funded under the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act; and providers of emergency, transitional, and permanent housing, including public housing agencies, shelter operators, and operators of transitional housing facilities;
- Professional development and technical assistance at both the state and local levels;
- Removing enrollment barriers, including barriers related to missed application or enrollment deadlines, fines, or fees; records required for enrollment, including immunization or other required health records, proof of residency, or other documentation; or academic records, including documentation for credit transfer;
- School stability, including the expansion of school of origin to include preschools and receiving schools and the provision of transportation until the end of the school year, even if a student becomes permanently housed;
- Privacy of student records, including information about a homeless child or youth's living situation; and
- The dispute resolution process.