Number of Homeless Students in Washington Up Sharply

By Tom Bacon

A startling statistic from the Washington public school chief - There are enough homeless students in the state to populate entire towns the size of Pullman or Walla Walla - more than 30,000 of them. Public school Superintendent Randy Dorn said 30,609 youngsters were counted as homeless this year.

Worse, that's a nearly 12 percent increase over last year, and a whopping 47 percent increase from the worst recession years, 2007 and 2008. In Spokane two years ago, nearly a thousand kids were counted as homeless, a 64 percent jump over 2011. Next door, the Central Valley district reported more than 400 homeless students in the 2011-2012 school year.

The Spokane Homeless Coalition estimated that a third of Spokane's homeless people are children. The new figures for Washington State come from a federal law requirement, Dorn said that officials aren't sure why the number is so high or why they continue to increase at a double-digit rate every year. He said a combination of factors may be to blame - a lack of housing options, job loss, an anemic job market.

The federal law requires states to give homeless students the same access to education as any other youngster, and it gives state educators about 950-thosuand dollars a year to help the homeless children.
All school districts must have a homeless liaison, a person charged with identifying, enrolling and setting up services for homeless students.
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