DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Michigan has seen a 66 percent rise in homeless students over four years and the state is facing the prospect of reduced federal funding to help with the problem, officials said.
The number of homeless students in the state was up to more than 37,500 in 2011-12, from about 22,600 in 2009-10, according to the state Department of Education.
In 2011, Michigan received $2.3 million in federal funds, or $40.47 per homeless student. The state is getting the same amount for 2012-13, but an expected increase in homelessness is expected to reduce the subsidy to about $21.02 per student.
The automatic reduction in the federal budget, meanwhile, is expected to cut funding by five percent for 2013-14.
Federal regulations define homeless children as those who lack “a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.” That includes those staying in someone else’s home.
“People can’t believe that Oakland County has homeless students, but they are in every one of our 28 school districts,” Susan Benson, director of Community Programs and Special Projects for Oakland Schools, told The Detroit News.
Hatty Ligon, homeless coordinator for the Farmington Public School District, said their district has 64 homeless students, adding that “homeless families exist everywhere — even living next door as your neighbors.”
Mike Barlow, curriculum director and a liaison officer in the Hazel Park School District, said they have 33 homeless students, up from 22 last year.
“Sleeping in a warm place, having something to eat; these are often priorities for the homeless,” Barlow told The Detroit News. “Is it any wonder that school work and lessons might be of a lesser priority?”
Kathleen Kropf, homeless education liaison for the Macomb Intermediate School District, said the district has already identified 800 homeless students, and that number is expected to grow.
“We receive new referrals every day, and I’m sure we’ll be at more than 1,000 by the end of the school year,” she said.
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