E-Alerts & Press Releases

Every child in school every day

October 19, 2011

“Legal work is often about dismantling or attacking injustice. This project has been a way for us to use our legal skills to build something positive” – Rhonda Lipkin

By October, the new school year is in full swing, and kids are settling into the routine of classes, homework, and afterschool activities. But for kids who are homeless, school may not be a sure thing. When students lack a stable home, numerous barriers can prevent them from staying in school.
Over the past year, in collaboration with Baltimore City school officials and nearly 90 advocates and foundations from around the city, the Public Justice Center investigated the barriers to homeless students’ educational stability and access to opportunities for academic achievement. We then proposed solutions – strategies and policies - that can remove those barriers for thousands of Baltimore City students. The beginning of the 2011-2012 school year brings not only the return of students but also the implementation of those recommendations.   
To get the job done, we created the Student School Stability Work Group during the 2010-2011 school year. The Work Group was co-chaired by Jonathan Brice of the City Schools, Monisha Cherayil and Rhonda Lipkin of the PJC, and Bonnie Legro of the Abell Foundation. The Executive Committee included staff from the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) and the Open Society Institute-Baltimore, who co-facilitated work group sessions and provided valuable expertise to inform discussions. Throughout the year, the Work Group solicited information and feedback from City Schools’ staff, community organization members, homeless education experts, and homeless and non-homeless parents and youth. Our goal was to evaluate City Schools’ compliance with the federal McKinney-Vento Act (the law that affords homeless students the right to education stability) and to develop recommendations for improvement. In May 2011, we finalized a comprehensive report and presented our findings to Dr. Andres Alonso, CEO of Baltimore City Schools. Dr. Alonso expressed his appreciation for the report and accepted the recommendations. City Schools is working with the PJC and other partners to implement comprehensive recommendations in ten separate categories in the 2011-2012 school year.
Among the expected reforms:  
1. Baltimore City Schools will hire a full-time homeless education liaison to overhaul the homeless student education program and implement the recommendations.
2. Each Baltimore City school will appoint a primary homeless education coordinator who will be trained and who will then train other school staff to ensure identification of and delivery of services to homeless students in that school.  
3. Outreach and training materials will be developed and distributed to reflect accurately the requirements of the McKinney-Vento Act and to encourage families and youth to take advantage of the opportunities and services available. 
4. City Schools will continue to develop and strengthen inter-agency and community relationships to provide a comprehensive source of ongoing support and funding for City Schools’ services to homeless children and youth.  
This effort is part of the PJC’s determination that all of Maryland’s school districts comply with the federal McKinney-Vento Act so that all children attend school every day regardless of whether their permanent housing has been disrupted. Funding partners include the Abell Foundation, the Open Society Institute -- Baltimore, the Baltimore Community Foundation, Maryland Legal Services Corporation, and other donors who support our work.
For more information about this project, please contact Monisha Cherayil

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