Separate & Unequal in the Same Classroom
Homeless Students in America's Public Schools
Over one million children experience homelessness in America every year, and with the growing foreclosure crisis, another two million children will likely experience homelessness in the next year. Homeless children face many of the same problems as poor and racial minority children across the country, indeed poor and minority families are disparately impacted by homelessness. However, in addition to the problems of race or poverty, homeless students' intersectional identity also creates unique issues in accessing education, such as the lack of documentation to enroll in school to the lack of regular transportation. These issues present barriers above and beyond those faced by other students.
Although the movement to protect the interests of homeless students does not have the constituency of the broader school desegregation or funding equity movements, it has made progress, particularly with the adoption of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (the Act). Similar to the desegregation and equity movements, homeless advocates face challenges implementing and funding laws, and should work collectively to address these problems. This article introduces and describes the educational barriers faced by homeless students and the legal mechanisms developed in response. Drawing parallels between the homeless movement and the desegregation and equity movements, this article concludes with an invitation to begin a dialogue about possible joint solutions to help all the nation's youth enjoy their full right to education.