SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – As the number of people living in cars and on the street has boomed, the state auditor said Thursday that California schools and regulators are not doing enough to connect hundreds of thousands of homeless students to help with tutoring, transportation and school supplies.
Rounds of studies have shown that youth experiencing homelessness are more likely to drop out of high school, develop chronic health conditions and use alcohol or drugs compared to students in stable homes. Experts say a teacher or administrator simply identifying that a K-12 student is homeless is a critical first step in improving academic performance.
Spurred by lawmakers looking for solutions to the state’s homelessness crisis, State Auditor Elaine Howle surveyed six school districts along with the Department of Education to see how they were administrating help to homeless students.
The audit found four of the districts identified less than 3% of their economically disadvantaged students -those eligible for free or reduced-price meals- as homeless, lower than the 5 to 10% estimate set by education experts.
In addition, Howle says none of the school districts gave adequate training to enable staff to better identify affected students, and just one distributed information about services available to the homeless.
“When [districts] do not disseminate information to all stakeholders about the rights of these youth, they hinder their own ability to identify all of them,” the audit states.