Washington has more homeless students than most states, numbers keep growing

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Washington has one of the highest levels of homeless students in the nation. And in a three-year span, when the number of homeless students in Washington grew by 30 percent, the amount of federal funding provided to help those students only increased by 8 percent.

Those findings are part of an annual report by the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness, which analyzed each state’s homeless-student population. Though the data is from the 2014-15 school year, it provides a snapshot into where homeless students live and how they perform compared with their classmates.

Data from Washington show that this state’s homeless-student population continues to grow. In the 2015-16 school year, nearly 40,000 students were homeless, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. In 2014-15, it was about 35,500.

“We cannot afford to ignore the complex challenges faced by homeless children and their families,” said Dr. Ralph da Costa Nunez, president of ICPH. “Unless we enact common-sense public policies that address the educational and economic needs of homeless families, today’s homeless children may become tomorrow’s homeless parents.”

Among the report’s findings:

? Washington had the eighth-highest number of homeless students and the ninth-highest rate of homeless students among the 50 states and D.C.

? Four school districts — Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane and Highline — had more than 1,000 homeless students. In 10 school districts, more than 20 percent of students were homeless.

? The average rate for homeless students identified as having a disability was 20 percent, nearly double the rate of their classmates. In three school districts — Nine Mile Falls, Camas and Trout Lake — almost half of all homeless students were identified as having a disability.

? Students were spread proportionately among cities, suburbs, towns and rural areas. About 43 percent lived in urban school districts.