Spokane Lawmaker Goes to Bat for Homeless Students

By Tom Bacon

Washington State lawmakers have passed and sent to the governor the first bill written specifically to give homeless students some help in grappling with school. One of the principal sponsors of the measure, Republican Representative Kevin Parker of Spokane, said the bill's aimed at tracking and reporting education success - or failure - of homeless students, and to give their teachers the resources they need to help the kids graduate. Parker got support in the state senate from Seattle Democrat David Frockt. 

Although the economy is recovering, the state's superintendent of public education found staggering numbers of homeless students in Washington - more than 30,000, a jump of nearly 12 percent from the year before. And Parker said there's a direct correlation between what he called housing instability and lack of academic progress. He said every time a homeless youngster is forced to move, he or she loses somewhere between four and six months of academic gain.

Parker said "only 37 percent of Washington identified homeless students are proficient in math, versus 64 percent of kids who have more stable homes".

If Governor Jay Inslee signs the bill, as expected, Washington school districts will have to report yearly on the number of identified homeless youngsters. School employees will be trained in how to identify signs that indicate a child may be homeless, and how to provide support and services to them. Parker called the bill only a first step, but an important one, in further action to help homeless students.
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