(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Joann Downey, Eric Houghtaling, Mila Jasey, Troy Singleton, James Holley and Marlene Caride to require the state to pay the educational costs for certain students who reside in a homeless shelter outside of their district of residence cleared the full Senate, 36-0, on Monday.
“Children and youth who experience homelessness face many barriers to education,” said Downey (D-Monmouth County). “School can be a source of stability for a young person and family who have lost their housing.”
“The legislation will help ensure that each homeless child and youth has equal access to a public education,” said Houghtaling (D- Monmouth County). “Education is important to every child, and even more critical to a child who has endured homelessness and other unfortunate experiences in life.”
The state is currently required to pay the educational costs of any student who resides for more than one year in a domestic violence shelter or transitional living facility located outside the student’s district of residents.
This bill provides that, in addition, the state will pay the educational costs of a student who resides for more than one year in a homeless shelter located outside the student’s district of residence.
“For a child whose life is filled with uncertainty and loss, school can be a place of safety, structure, and opportunity,” said Jasey (D-Essex, Morris). “Eliminating barriers to school enrollment and for children facing homelessness ensures the opportunity for academic success.”
“When forced to relocate to a shelter in another school district, homeless children and youth often are unable to attend, or even enroll in, school, which prevents them from obtaining the education that is both their legal right and their best hope of success as adults,” said Singleton (D-Burlington). “This bill removes a barrier for these children and their families by ensuring that they will be able to attend school wherever they are residing at the time.”
“For young people struggling with homelessness, school is not just a place of learning, but may be the most stable place they have to go to,” said Holley (D-Union). “This helps ensure that students who are facing such an arduous situation continue to have a place where they can feel safe.”
“Maintaining a sense of normalcy while homeless is challenging,” said Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic). “These young people are dealing with a harsh reality. It is incumbent on us to ensure they have at least this one constant in their lives not just for their academic, but personal well-being.”
A series of administrative law decisions have ruled that if a homeless family continues to reside in a particular school district for more than one year, then the family is considered to be domiciled in that district, and the district becomes responsible for the costs of the child’s education. This bill will avoid concentrating the educational costs of students who live in homeless shelters for an extended period of time on the communities in which shelters are located.
The bill was approved by the Assembly Education Committee on December 12, 2016 and the full Assembly on February 15, 69-0-1. The bill now heads to the Governor for further consideration.