Rachael Myers, Executive Director
On Monday, the Housing Alliance joined Children’s Alliance and Columbia Legal Services in filing an Amicus Curiae, or “friend of the court,” brief with the state Supreme Court. The brief is in response to the McCleary case, in which the Supreme Court found that the state is not meeting its paramount duty to fully fund basic education. In this phase of the case, the court has asked the state why it shouldn’t prohibit expenditures on other matters until education is fully funded.
While we agree that education must be fully funded, we are concerned about the potential to cut or freeze other critical programs that children need to succeed in school. Our brief requests that as the state moves to comply with the Court’s ruling, it refrain from funding education in a way that jeopardizes housing and other basic services for children and families.
During the 2012 – 2013 school year, 30,609 public school students were homeless. That’s one of every 34 students. It shouldn’t be a surprise that homeless students struggle academically. According to research, they are more likely to be below proficiency levels in math, reading, and science than their housed peers, and they have significantly lower graduation rates.
In addition, young people in our state’s foster care system face many of the same challenges as homeless students because of the temporary nature of foster placements. Foster youth have the highest drop-out rate and lowest graduation rate of any student group in Washington.
Even with the existing level of state funding for social programs, students of color often cannot achieve educational opportunity. Students of color are more likely than white students to experience homelessness or poverty and to be in the foster care system. Poverty and lacking a stable, permanent home, compounded with institutional and system racism greatly expands the educational opportunity gap that already exists between white students and students of color.
For students from low-income families, what happens outside school is just as important to their education as what happens inside the classroom. This is why we filed this brief to the Court. Even with the best academic programs available, if students are homeless, hungry, or struggling with their other basic needs, they face unfair and unnecessary barriers to achieving their potential. An all-cuts approach to funding McCleary and meeting our current budget obligations would take a $2.5-$3 billion toll on the state budget. We believe education should be a launching pad for all students and requires a robust investment. But that investment shouldn’t come at the expense of other supports kids need to succeed in school and in life.
There will be what’s called a show cause oral hearing on Wednesday, September 3. Stay tuned to our social media outlets and our blog as developments occur.
You can read our joint press release about the brief here.
You can read the Amicus Curiae brief here.
You might have heard that several other parties filed briefs related to McCleary on Monday. The Education Week blog has this summary of each of the briefs.
The Temple of Justice in Olympia
Grant, R., Gracy, D., Goldsmith, G., Shapiro, A., & Redlener, I. (2013). Twenty-Five Years of Child and Family Homelessness: Where are we now? American Journal of Public Health, Supplement 2 (103), e1-10.
Fantuzzo, J., LeBoeuf, W., Brumley, B., & Perlman, S. (2013). Children and Youth Services Review, 35, 966-972.
The National Center on Family Homelessness, http://www.familyhomelessness.org/media/88.pdf.
Hong, S., & Piescher, K. (2012). The Role of Supportive Housing in Homeless Children’s Well-Being: An investigation of child welfare and educational outcomes. Children and Youth Services Review, 34, 1440-1447.