Despite signs of a national economic recovery, homelessness in U.S. public schools steadily increased 8 percent, to 1.26 million students, in the 2012-13 school year from the previous year. That may not sound terrible, but consider that it is part of a 58 percent jump in the number of homeless students in the six years since the start of the economic recession of 2007-08.
“It’s safe to say there’s been a significant increase in homelessness in schools,” said Diana Bowman, director of the National Center for Homeless Education. Her organization, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, provides technical assistance for the federal Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program.
The U.S. Department of Education quietly released this data on homeless students, in grades pre-K through 12, without issuing a press release or detailed report. The new data were added to a publicly accessible database on September 22, 2014 as part of its annual Consolidated State Performance Report Data.
Some states saw much larger than average one-year increases in homelessness. Student homelessness in New Jersey grew by 77 percent and in Alabama by 68 percent over the most recent one-year period. Washington, D.C., Maine, Montana and New York also experienced sharp increases in the number of homeless students.
But Bowman cautioned against putting too much stock in sharp one-year fluctuations. States sometimes change counting methodologies; longer multi-year trends are more reliable. <Read more.>