Recent news stories have reported on a New York City effort to relocate homeless families. The program resulted in the placement of 5,000 families in communities across the nation, including 62 New Jersey municipalities, according to a Dec. 6 article in New Jersey Advance Media.
For the state’s public schools, the challenges of serving students from homeless families is not confined to this one situation. The National Alliance to End Homelessness reports that, in 2018, one out of every 1,000 New Jerseyans experienced homelessness to some degree.
Federal law—the Every Student Succeeds Act and the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act—requires that homeless youth have the same access to a school district’s education program, including preschool, as other children. It also requires school districts to designate a local liaison for homeless children.
New Jersey statute, N.J.S.A. 18A:7B-12, places financial responsibility for the education of the homeless pupil with the school district in which the parent or guardian last resided prior to becoming homeless.
Under the same law, the state will assume responsibility for the cost of a homeless child’s education under certain circumstances:
- If the district of residence cannot be determined according to the criteria listed in the statute.
- If a district of residence is located outside of the state.
- If the child has resided in a domestic violence shelter, homeless shelter, or transitional living facility located outside of the district of residence for more than one year.
Information about state reimbursement and local school district responsibilities for educating homeless pupils is available through the following resources:
- NJSBA School Policy Service: Critical Policy Reference Manual, Policy and Legal References, “Admission” (File Code 5111) and “Nonresidents” (File Code 5118). Log in to this members-only service at https://ws.njsba.org/njsba/policy/.
- NJDOE, Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program, https://www.nj.gov/education/homeless/
- NJDOE, 2019 Frequently Asked Questions (concerning state reimbursement), https://homeroom4.doe.state.nj.us/homeless/doc/FAQ2019.pdf
For policy information and assistance, contact the NJSBA School Policy Service at firstname.lastname@example.org or (609) 278-5268.