News in Brief (08.18.2010)

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Photo courtesy of Jeff Eaton via flickr.

Stimulus Funds Target Needs of Homeless School Kids 

About $70 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – or the stimulus bill – is set aside to buoy a federal program that serves homeless children, McClatchy Newspapers reports.  

The money will assist cash-strapped school districts in complying with the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, a federal mandate to help remove some of the obstacles that prevent homeless students from attending school.  

North Carolina received about $1.6 million in stimulus money under the McKinney-Vento Act. Nash County which includes the city of Rocky Mount, used most of its $44,248 allotment to hire a case manager to help connect homeless students with services. The problem of homelessness is real in Rocky Mount, a former manufacturing hub. About 564 homeless students were enrolled in the 2009-’10 school year, up 9% from the previous school year. The figures put the school district among the ninth worst state in the country for the risk of child homelessness.  

School officials are already worrying about how to keep the case manager after the stimulus funds are gone. Meanwhile, critics say the stimulus funds aren’t enough to address the problems of homeless students.  

Diane Nilan, the founder and president of the homeless youth advocacy group HEAR US, charged that the federal government is “almost clueless” and has largely ignored America’s estimated 1.5 million homeless children in dealing with the recession.  

“When you look at what you’re getting and what the need is, it’s pathetic,” Nilan said.  

United Way’s “Stuff the Bus” Helps Homeless Students with Supplies  

In Ventura County, Calif., United Way helped raise school supplies for homeless students and those struggling with getting supplies, the Ventura County Star reports.  

Among the items that the “Stuff the Bus” project collected included more than 13,147 new school supplies. About 300 homeless students will receive backpacks filled with pencils, pens, notebook paper, rules, calculators and other must-have items for school.  

A total of 28 organizations, libraries and corporations helped support the endeavor, according to the Ventura County Star.  

“The ‘Stuff the Bus’ campaign was a great opportunity to show that everyone can make a difference to help advance the common good in the area of education which is part of United Way’s three-pillar approach which also includes income and health,” said Susan Englund, United Way’s Vice President of Community Impact. “United Way considers these three focus areas as building blocks for a good life.”  

Number of W.Va. Homeless Students Jumps  

The number of children defined as homeless in West Virginia grew from 4,233 in the 2008-’09 school year to about 5,000 for the current academic year, the Charleston Gazette reports. Students are considered homeless if they have no permanent housing and also those who live in motels, a house with more than one family or those in foster care.  

Students who are considered homeless get free meals from West Virginia schools, free school supplies, and up to five sets of school clothing. They also receive additional tutoring if it’s needed and transportation to school.  

Mass. Schools Work to Serve Homeless Students  

On any given night, more than 12,000 Massachusetts children don’t know where they’ll be sleeping. They have to do homework at shelters, campgrounds or even motels. The number of homeless students in the state has nearly doubled from what it was five years ago – a statistic that generally mirrors the trend across the nation, the Patriot Ledger of Quincy reports.  

Homeless youth are more likely to score below grade level, repeat grades, and have poor attendance, according to the Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis. So Massachusetts schools are upping the ante to help these students achieve academic success through additional services, including providing emergency housing and college prep.  

Washington Government Cutting $51M in State Welfare  

Fewer people will qualify for Washington’s state welfare program under cuts announced by Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, Businessweek reports.  

Among the programs that will be hit hardest is the WorkFirst initiative, the state’s welfare-to-work program because matching funds from the federal government have remained flat since the ‘90s. Other cuts will include granting fewer extensions to families who reach the five-year limit and lowering the income eligibility for the child care subsidy. Education, employment and training services will also see cuts.  

The cuts will begin to take effect in October.  

Compiled by Dianna Heitz, from previously published reports. 

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