The McKinney-Vento Act is a federal law developed to ensure enrollment and educational stability for homeless children and youth. Every homeless youth has access to the same free, appropriate public education, including preschool education, as other children and youth. The law seeks to remove any barriers created by other laws, regulations, practices, and policies that might keep children experiencing homelessness from receiving the same educational experience. Students who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence are eligible for services guaranteed under the McKinney-Vento Act.
This provision includes:
- Children sharing housing due to economic hardship or loss of housing;
- Children living in "motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camp grounds due to lack of alternative accommodations"
- Children living in "emergency or transitional shelters"
- Children whose primary nighttime residence is not ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation (e.g. park benches, etc.)
- Children living in "cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations..."
The local liaison serves as one of the primary contacts between homeless families and school staff, district personnel, shelter workers, and other service providers. Every LEA, whether or not it receives a McKinney-Vento subgrant, is required to designate a local liaison. (Section 722(g)(1)(J)(ii)). The liaison coordinates services to ensure that homeless children and youths enroll in school and have the opportunity to succeed academically.
Local liaisons must ensure that:
- Homeless children and youths are identified by school personnel through outreach and coordination activities with other entities and agencies;
- Homeless children and youths are enrolled in, and have full and equal opportunity to succeed in, the school or schools of the LEA;
- Homeless families and homeless children and youths have access to and receive educational services for which such families, children, and youths are eligible, including services through Head Start programs (including Early Head Start programs), early intervention services under Part C of the IDEA, and other preschool programs administered by the LEA;
- Homeless families and homeless children and youths receive referrals to health, dental, mental health, and substance abuse services, housing services, and other appropriate services; Parents or guardians of homeless children and youths are informed of educational and related opportunities available to their children and are provided with meaningful opportunities to participate in the education of their children;
- Public notice of the educational rights of homeless students is disseminated in locations frequented by parents and guardians of such children and youths, and unaccompanied youths, including schools, shelters, public libraries, and soup kitchens, in a manner and form understandable to the parents and guardians and unaccompanied youths;
- Enrollment disputes are mediated in accordance with the requirements of the McKinney-Vento Act;
- Parents and guardians and unaccompanied youths are fully informed of all transportation services, including transportation to and from the school of origin and are assisted in accessing transportation services;
- School personnel receive professional development and other support; and
- Unaccompanied youths are enrolled in school, have opportunities to meet the same challenging State academic standards as the State establishes for other children and youths, are informed of their status as independent students under section 480 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) (20 U.S.C. 1087vv), and their right to receive verification of this status from the local liaison.