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Out of the Shadows: A State-by-State Ranking of Accountability for Homeless Students

“A quality education can be the most important tool for helping children and families lift themselves out of a recurring pattern of housing instability.”


Introduction

The crisis of family homelessness in the United States continues to fall heaviest on the nation’s most vulnerable: its children. Despite decades of varied policy approaches and a growing body of literature on the impact of homelessness on the development of young bodies and minds, the number of children without a permanent home continues to grow, with close to 1.3 million students in public schools counted as homeless during the 2014–15 school year. Many of these children are trapped in an intergenerational cycle of poverty, with parents who themselves were homeless at a young age. For them, ending homelessness requires more than a place to sleep; it requires the tools to break the cycle.

A quality education can be the most important tool to helping children and families lift themselves out of a recurring pattern of housing instability. To do that, however, these children must first be identified as homeless and then receive the necessary support to ensure that homelessness does not disrupt their learning. To assist educators and policymakers in gauging their own efforts in serving homeless student, the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness (ICPH) presents Out of the Shadows: A State-by-State Ranking of Accountability for Homeless Students.




Table 1

2017 Overall National Ranking on the Identification of Homeless Students




At the federal level, there are have been several major policy changes in recent years. First and foremost is the enactment of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015. ESSA contained the first amendments to the landmark McKinney-Vento Act in over ten years, including more stringent procedures for schools and school districts in the planning and provision of services to homeless students, better protections for students facing possible school transfers, and an increase in authorized funding for the Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program within the U.S. Department of Education (ED).

Historically, ED has been a critical resource in the fight against family homelessness. Although the majority of federal funding and policies related to family homelessness comes from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), its limited definition of homelessness leads to a significant undercount of families and children without permanent housing of their own. Only ED counts as homeless those children who are staying temporarily with another family or household due to economic hardship. More than three-quarters of all homeless students live in this kind of unstable arrangement, known as “doubled up.” These students are often the hardest to connect with support services, as they are often unaware of their legal rights under McKinney-Vento or reluctant to self-identify as being homeless.




Figure 1

Number of Homeless Students Nationwide
and EHCY Funding

SY 2010–11 to SY 2014–15
Since the 2010–11 school year, the number of homeless students in grades pre-Kindergarten through 12th rose 19%, to just under 1.3 million nationwide. Over the same period, funding for the Education for Homeless Children and Youth program remained steady at $65 million. This has resulted in a decrease in total federal spending per student from $61.26 in SY 2010–11 to $51.48 in SY 2014–15 (with an average allocation to states of $50.08 for every homeless student). Funding for EHCY will increase to $77 million in FY 2017, and an increase up to $85 million by 2020 was authorized under ESSA. 




Map 1

Overall Rankings on the Identification of
Homeless Students

SY 2014–15




Map 2

Number of Indicators Improved, by State

SY 2012–13 to SY 2014–15




We selected five indicators on which to hold states accountable for the support and identification of homeless students. ICPH will be releasing in-depth discussions on each of the indicators in the near future. The first two—Head Start and Pre-Kindergarten—both provide a measure of how early childhood programs serve homeless students. The Head Start indicator gives a sense of how states are using federal funds and programs to support students who receive priority within this specific program. As many states are expanding individual pre-Kindergarten programs, this indicator both suggests how well states are serving young homeless children as they expand pre-Kindergarten access and how states might think about improving Kindergarten readiness for homeless students.

We then chose two indicators for Kindergarten–12 education: Homeless Students and Doubled-Up Students. For the Homeless Student indicator, we look at homeless students as a percent of extremely poor children. While we can’t know precisely how many homeless children should be identified within a given state or municipality, this measure is our best proxy for highlighting areas where perhaps homeless students are under-identified. Without identification, services and resources cannot be appropriately allocated. The second Kindergarten–12 indicator looks at the ratio of homeless students living doubled up compared with total Kindergarten–12 enrollment. This indicator can help a state also think about identification, but in addition, our research has shown that understanding the type of homelessness a student experiences matters for effective support and optimal outcomes.




Table 2

Detailed Rankings
on the Identification
of Homeless Students




The fifth indicator looks at the percentage of homeless students identified as having a disability. Our student-level work in New York City has shown that many homeless students who have a disability are not identified until well into elementary school—often in third grade as opposed to Kindergarten, the ideal time for disability interventions to begin. This is not to suggest that more homeless children experience a disability than housed students. Rather, because of the transitory nature of homeless families, children are less likely to receive the kind of specific attention required to properly identify a disability and receive an Individualized Education Program (IEP). This measure can allow states to think about how they might ensure that students are properly referred and evaluated in the midst of experiencing homelessness.

We believe these rankings are a starting point for a necessary and valuable conversation about who homeless students are, where they are found, and how we can work together as a nation to support these often hidden, always vulnerable children.





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Regional Rankings

Comparing states across the country is important, but we also know that understanding how your immediate neighbors fare in comparison to your state matters greatly as well.  Neighboring states are often more likely to share important characteristics when it comes to types of homelessness and available resources, and neighboring states may also have greater opportunities for cross-state partnership than a state on the opposite coast.  We chose to present the 50 states and the District of Columbia in four regions—Midwest, Northeast, South, and West.

 

 





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Homeless Students in Head Start

as an indicator of support and identification

“As toddlers, homeless children frequently begin to demonstrate developmental delays. … Without access to high-quality preschool, low-income and homeless students will be unable to succeed academically on par with students who have had the benefit of early education.”


Large disparities exist in the academic achievement of Kindergarteners who have attended preschool and those who have not. This gap, which can persist throughout a child’s future education, is compounded by the fact that children from low-income families are less likely to attend preschool than their peers. Homeless students are even less likely to attend preschool, despite the fact that early education gives homeless children access to services that can help them overcome some of the negative impacts of homelessness.

The impact of homelessness can be seen in the developmental and academic disparities between housed and homeless students as early as preschool. As toddlers, homeless children frequently begin to demonstrate developmental delays. In fact, three-quarters of preschool-aged homeless children have at least one developmental delay, and almost half have two developmental delays. These delays, which are commonly related to impulsivity and speech, often result in poor educational outcomes.

This indicator focuses on Head Start. The goal, however, is to open the door to a conversation about how states can provide high-quality early childhood education to homeless students and the role that federal funds and federally-regulated programs like Head Start contribute to supporting homeless children.

Ranking states based on their success at providing access to Head Start for homeless children is done by measuring the total number of children experiencing homelessness that were served as a percentage of all children enrolled in the 2015 enrollment year. Helping homeless families both enroll and maintain attendance can be difficult, given these families’ high mobility and unpredictable schedules. States with a higher proportion of homeless children within their total enrollment are more likely to have developed collaborative partnerships between Head Start programs, government agencies, and local shelters that can foster improved access.

Map 3

Percentage of Homeless Children
in Head Start and Early Head Start

Ranked by State, SY 2014–15




Head Start is a federally-funded preschool program that has served over 32 million people since its inception in 1965, and there are currently over 1,700 agencies nationwide that provide Head Start services to low-income families. Since 1998, the mission of Head Start has been to promote school readiness among children in low-income families. At the same time, about 60% of four-year-olds nationwide were not attending publicly-funded preschool in 2015.

In 2015, the Office of Head Start announced new Head Start Performance Standards, to ensure high-quality preschool education across all Head Start programs. The largest change made was that students be in the classroom for a minimum of six hours per day, for 180 days per year (a marked increase from the previous standard with a minimum of three and a half hours per day for 128 days per year). New standards also included improved monitoring of chronic absenteeism, which disproportionately affects homeless students. Importantly, the standards were designed to support the enrollment of homeless children by allowing them to provide immunization records up to 90 days after they start the program. Under the new rules, Head Start providers must also assist homeless families in finding transportation to and from the agency if necessary.

With an increase of over six percentage points, Vermont’s identification of homeless Head Start children saw the most improvement in homeless Head Start enrollment, from 11.1% in SY 2012–13 to 17.2% in SY 2014–15. The percentage of homeless students in Head Start decreased the most in Alaska, where the percent of homeless Head Start students dropped from 11.9% in SY 2012–13 to 9.6% in SY 2014–15. The difference in the percentage of homeless Head Start children between SY 2012–13 and SY 2014–15 was less than one percentage point in the majority of states.

Table 3

Percentage of Children in Head Start
and Early Head Start Who Are Homeless

Figure 2

Head Start Federal Funding and Funded Enrollment

FY 2013 to FY 2015
Since 2013, total funding for Head Start increased 10%, to just under $8.3 billion. Over that same period, enrollment increased by 5%, with close to a million children nationwide. Enrollment of homeless children was relatively constant, decreasing slightly from 50,992 children served in 2013 to 50,274 in 2015. This 1% decrease stands in contrast to the 6% increase in homeless three-to-five-year-olds reported by the Department of Education from SY 2012–13 to SY 2014–15.

Figure 3

Homeless Families Served by Head Start

Program Year 2013 to FY 2015
From 2013 to 2015, about one-third of homeless families served by Head Start acquired housing during the year. In 2015, the states where Head Start families had the most success finding housing were all located in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, with over 50% of homeless families in Delaware, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island moving into permanent housing during that year. By contrast, several states in the South and West had much lower success rates. In 5 states (Arizona, California, Mississippi, Nevada, and Alabama), less than a quarter of homeless Head Start families were able to acquire housing in 2015.


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Spotlight on Vermont

Number one for enrollment of homeless children
in Head Start and Early Head Start

“We just started providing transportation for our Early Ed kids who are homeless. I think what has been really important is sharing information with the entire district about how to look for clues to the possibility of kids being homeless. If I have all the adults in a building listening for kids talking about where they slept the night before or coming in late and complaining about issues at home, they know to email me a name and I will reach out to the family.”
Mia Marinovich,
Burlington (VT) School District


Vermont has recognized the importance of early childhood education since the 1990s, when the state received a Head Start State Collaboration Grant and the Child Care Development Block Grant. In recent years, the state has taken additional measures to expand preschool access and prioritize homeless children for enrollment, making it the top-ranked state for the enrollment of homeless children in Head Start and Early Head Start for SY 2014–15.

In SY 2014–15, Vermont enrolled 1,720 children in its Head Start programs. Among all enrollees, 295 children, or 17%, were identified as homeless. This percentage was substantially higher than any other state and placed Vermont as an outlier for its success in enrolling homeless children in Head Start programs.

Vermont’s seven Head Start and four Early Head Start programs served 269 homeless families in SY 2014–15. From 2009 to 2015, Vermont improved tremendously compared to the rest of the nation in its ability to identify and enroll homeless children in Head Start. The percent of homeless children enrolled in Vermont’s Head Start programs more than doubled over this time, from 7% in 2009 to 17% in 2015, while the national average of homeless children in Head Start only increased modestly from 3% to 5%.

Vermont has shown innovation in leveraging its resources to expand and strengthen its early education programs. The state’s Head Start programs partner with school districts to offer pre-Kindergarten programs in integrated classrooms and facilities that serve children from different income levels. In SY 2013–14, six Head Start grantees partnered with LEAs at 28 partnership sites, with many classrooms in these sites enrolling both Head Start and non-Head Start children. The partnerships allow Head Start grantees and LEAs to provide individual support to homeless children, share resources, and serve more children.

In 2013, a needs assessment report found low levels of engagement between Head Start grantees and school district homeless liaisons, as well as reports of difficulty experienced by Head Start grantees in implementing family outreach and support services. To address this issue, Vermont’s Agency of Human Services adopted a framework creating an effective continuum of care developed by the state’s Council on Homelessness. Importantly, the framework includes a component for supporting the education of homeless children through coordination between Head Start grantees and homeless liaisons.

Prior to this change, Vermont created Building Bright Futures—its Early Childhood State Advisory Council—one year before all states were charged with creating State Advisory Councils through the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007. Building Bright Futures, which is dedicated to coordinating early childhood education programs in the state, was later codified into state law in 2010.

Vermont has also sought additional federal funding to help improve access to preschool. The state was awarded a five-year federal Race to the Top Preschool Development Grant for the expansion of its preschool program from 2015 to 2019. Using funds from this grant and other state and federal sources, Vermont created 176 new preschool slots and improved 183 slots by awarding subgrants to three Head Start programs and 13 other subgrantees.

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Spotlight on Nevada

Most improved for serving homeless children in Head Start

“We believe other states could follow in the footsteps of the Clark County School District’s urgency to collaborate with outside entities [although we cannot speak on behalf of the state]. The reauthorization of the McKinney-Vento Act helped to increase the focus on homeless students and their transition to higher education. This has urged the school district, in partnership with the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) and the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth to develop the UNLV HOPE Scholars Program. The program is a collaboration between all three entities to support students, secure year-round housing, academic and financial support while attending UNLV.”
Kelly-Jo Shebeck,
Coordinator, Title I, HOPE, Clark County School District


Nevada’s investment of effort and resources into understanding the needs of early childhood education providers has led to the state’s distinction as the most-improved state for serving homeless children in Head Start. Nevada improved from a rank of 17th in 2013 to 9th in 2015, with homeless children comprising nearly one in ten Head Start enrollees in 2015.

The state has conducted surveys of providers and developed plans to implement their suggestions into early education policy. Nevada has increasingly focused on expanding preschool opportunities to children with high needs, including homeless children, and has taken strides to improve its data systems to track the progress of these students.

In 2015, eleven Nevada grantees provided Head Start, Early Head Start, and American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start programs. From 2013 to 2015, the number of homeless students in Head Start increased by 13%, from 349 students in 2013 to 395 in 2015.  Meanwhile, total enrollment of children in Nevada’s Head Start programs dropped by 7%, from 4,586 in 2013 to 4,280 in 2015 (the drop in total enrollment was partially due to sequestration cuts).

Despite funding cuts, Nevada has maintained its commitment to providing preschool education to homeless children. The state conducted a needs assessment in 2013 to understand what resources Head Start and Early Head Start grantees need to effectively serve students. Of the eight grantees that responded, three reported having no working relationship with a McKinney-Vento homeless liaison and three reported having no working relationship with housing agencies and groups serving homeless families. Moreover, five grantees reported having at least some difficulty in obtaining data on the needs of homeless children.

In response, Nevada’s Head Start Collaboration Strategic Plan includes the goal of increasing communication and enhancing relationships between Head Start agencies and other service providers to expand outreach to eligible families, including the families of homeless children.  Additionally, Nevada’s Early Childhood Comprehensive System Strategic Plan for 2014–2017 aims to improve the state’s data collection system by linking child-level demographic and developmental data with program site information to monitor the effectiveness of early childhood education programs.

Nevada has also implemented improvements to its early childhood education system through the legislative process. The state passed Nevada Assembly Bill 79 in 2013, which placed its Early Childhood Advisory Council into law. The Council went beyond the requirements of the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007 by supporting a provision for a mental health assessment for young preschool children. This led to the state allocating additional funding to southern Nevada to increase mental health services to children. In addition, the Council supported the establishment of the Tribal Early Childhood Advisory Council to spread awareness about the importance of early childhood education among tribal communities.

These advancements are important for homeless children who are often at higher risk for mental health issues. In addition, the creation of the Tribal Early Childhood Advisory Council is expected to result in higher enrollment rates in Head Start for children from tribal communities. This is critical, given that Nevada did not receive any American Indian/Alaska Native Head Start funding for Early Head Start in 2015.

Nevada also aligned and consolidated several early childhood programs into the recently-established Office of Early Learning and Development in the Department of Education. The Office administers funding from the Head Start State Collaboration Office Grant and the Pre-Kindergarten Development Grant, among others. In 2014, the federal government awarded Nevada a four-year federal Preschool Development Grant.  Nevada received approximately $6.4 million in FY 2014 and $7.2 million in FY 2015, but did not allocate funding until legislative approval in June 2015. The state has already begun to use the grant funds to expand preschool access to five high-needs counties by partnering with Head Start grantees, as well as LEAs and non-profit organizations.

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Homeless Students in Pre-Kindergarten

as an indicator of support and identification

Despite improved laws and an overall trend toward expansion of state pre-Kindergarten programs, many homeless children can still lack access to a quality early education. … Homeless students can be subject to long waiting lists for pre-Kindergarten if they are not prioritized for enrollment under state law.”


Achievement gaps start even before children walk into their first day of school—children who start school with early math and reading skills are more likely to achieve academically in later years. Pre-Kindergarten is now recognized as a crucial building block for ensuring school readiness for all children, and especially for homeless children. Indeed, there is significant evidence to support the idea that pre-Kindergarten benefits children across race, ethnicity, and class. Forty-three states and the District of Columbia use state funds to support early childhood education such as pre-Kindergarten; approximately 1.4 million four-year olds attended a state-funded preschool program in 2015, of which over 39,000 were homeless.

State pre-Kindergarten programs are similar to Head Start in that they provide education to young children in low-income families. While Head Start has federally-mandated standards, state pre-Kindergarten programs can vary in their eligibility requirements, funding, quality, and services provided. The potential impact of such variations on homeless students was reduced, however, under revisions to McKinney-Vento passed as part of ESSA.

Under the new law, preschool/pre-Kindergarten programs are now included in the definition of a student’s “school of origin,” entitling homeless pre-Kindergarten students to the funded transportation homeless Kindergarten-grade 12 students had been previously guaranteed. Additionally, ESSA requires school districts to review their policies and eliminate barriers that may prevent homeless children from receiving the same quality education as their housed peers.

These additional protections for young homeless children come as many cities and states are realizing the positive effects of providing pre-Kindergarten education to low-income children. Total state funding of pre-Kindergarten rose to almost $7.4 billion in 2015–2016, and average state spending per child in pre-Kindergarten increased to $4,976.

Despite improved laws and an overall trend toward expansion of state pre-Kindergarten programs, many homeless children may still lack access to a quality early education. A homeless child’s access to preschool varies greatly depending upon the local pre-Kindergarten eligibility criteria, the number of slots available in state pre-Kindergarten programs, and local financial resources. Homeless students can be subject to long waiting lists for pre-Kindergarten if they are not prioritized for enrollment under state law. Additionally, although ESSA states that lack of medical records or birth certificates should not prevent a child from being enrolled, many preschool programs continue to follow state and local documentation requirements for enrollment, and may not be aware of the new federal policy.

Ranking states on how well they are able to identify and enroll homeless students in their pre-Kindergarten programs requires more than counting the number of preschool-aged homeless children. By measuring the ratio of homeless students enrolled in preschool to poor children (children in families earning less than the federal poverty level) in preschool, it is possible to control for varying levels of poverty in different states. Two states may have an identical number of homeless children enrolled in pre-Kindergarten, but the state in which homeless children make up a smaller percentage of those in poverty is more likely to be under-identifying or under-enrolling its homeless students.

For SY 2014–15, the District of Columbia earned the top rank by having the highest ratio of homeless pre-Kindergarten students to poor children, at 19.6%, making it the top-ranked state on this indicator. Since SY 2012–13, Vermont had the largest percentage point increase in this indicator, a likely result of a 2014 law implementing universal pre-Kindergarten. By virtue of a relatively strong performance in SY 2012–13, however, Vermont did not improve by as many rankings as Maine, which climbed 14 places to 28th among all states in SY 2014–15.

Map 4

Homeless Children as a Percentage of Poor Children
in Pre-Kindergarten

Ranked by State, SY 2014–15

 

Table 4

Homeless Children as a Percent of Poor Children
in Pre-Kindergarten

 

Figure 4

States with Highest and Lowest Spending
on Pre-Kindergarten

SY 2015–16, per enrolled child
To expand access to quality preschool programs, most states fund their own pre-Kindergarten programs in addition to serving preschool-aged children through Head Start. Nationally, the average state spending per enrolled child was $4,521. The states that spent the most per child in pre-Kindergarten in 2015 were, with the exception of Oregon, located on the East Coast. The District of Columbia spent the most on each student in pre-Kindergarten, spending an average of $16,431 per enrolled child. The states that spent the least per enrolled child in their pre-Kindergarten programs were generally located in the Midwest and the South. With an average spending of $1,778 per enrolled child in 2015, Mississippi spent the least per pre-Kindergarten student. 

 

Figure 5

Number of States that Use Risk Factors
Besides Income to Determine Eligibility
for State Pre-Kindergarten Programs

SY 2014–15
In 2015, 42 states and the District of Columbia invested state funds into pre-Kindergarten programs. In addition to the use of a family’s income level to determine eligibility, 30 states identified other risk factors that could qualify children for state-run programs. Of all states with pre-Kindergarten programs, almost half included homelessness or unstable housing as a factor that could be used to deem children eligible for their state pre-Kindergarten programs. The six states that neither had universal or income-only eligibility nor included homelessness as a risk factor were Hawaii, Kansas, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, and West Virginia.

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Spotlight on District of Columbia

Number one in identification and enrollment
of homeless pre-Kindergarteners

“The accessibility of D.C.’s universal pre-Kindergarten program has led to the District being ranked first in the identification and enrollment of homeless pre-Kindergarteners.”


The District of Columbia has been committed to pre-Kindergarten programs for its children for decades, with homeless students representing a high percentage of children served. The accessibility of D.C.’s universal pre-Kindergarten program has led to the District being ranked first in the identification and enrollment of homeless pre-Kindergarteners. In SY 2014–15, homeless children aged 3–5 constituted 19.6% of D.C.’s poor children enrolled in pre-Kindergarten. Thirteen states had larger numbers of homeless pre-Kindergarten aged children, but their lower ratios of homeless students to children living in poverty suggests that there are still homeless children that are not being reached in these states.

D.C. has been investing in pre-Kindergarten programs since 1960, and started providing universal pre-Kindergarten in 2008 through the Pre-Kindergarten Enhancement and Expansion Amendment Act. The Act determined class size, set curriculum standards and teacher qualifications, and required that there be universal pre-Kindergarten in the District by 2014. In 2015, the program reached 64% of all three-year-olds and 86% of four-year-olds in the District, providing an early childhood education to a greater proportion of the preschool-aged population than any other state.

The District of Columbia runs pre-Kindergarten programs through its public schools, public charter schools, and community-based organizations. Pre-Kindergarten programs implemented in District of Columbia Public Schools Early Childhood classrooms follow several models of academic programming. In order to ensure high-quality early education among D.C. Public Charter Schools, the Early Childhood Performance Management Framework is used as an accountability measure. The framework mandates that early childhood programs be scored annually on outcomes such as student progress, teacher interaction using the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), and attendance. Other organizations administering pre-Kindergarten also collect CLASS data to ensure high-quality programs. All public pre-Kindergarten programs in the District are full-day programs, which is extremely helpful to parents who may be looking for housing or work, are working long hours to make ends meet, or cannot afford childcare.

In order to enroll in D.C.’s pre-Kindergarten program, parents first fill out the “My School DC” common application. As part of the application process, parents select up to 12 pre-Kindergarten programs in which they would like their child to be enrolled. Afterwards, there is a citywide random lottery to determine where the child will be placed. According to the Pre-Kindergarten Enhancement and Expansion Amendment Act, proof of residency must be established in order to enroll the child in D.C.’s universal pre-Kindergarten program. If, however, the parents of homeless students cannot provide proof of D.C. residency, children can still be enrolled if the school district’s homeless liaison provides a homeless referral to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education.

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Spotlight on Maine

Most improved for serving homeless pre-Kindergarteners

Maine has taken great strides to expand access to pre-Kindergarten, rising 14 spots since our previous ranking to go from 42nd to 28th for this indicator. The state established the Public Preschool Program for four-year-olds, the funds for which are distributed directly to the state’s school administrative units, or school districts. In SY 2014–15, 88% of school districts had a Public Preschool Program. Districts have formal partnerships with a regional Head Start grantee to provide full-day, full-week programming with wrap-around services. This program design is especially beneficial to homeless and low-income families, as these parents may not be able to provide transportation for the child or afford childcare during the day.

In SY 2012–13, 1.2% of poor preschool students in the state were identified as homeless, while 2.3% of poor preschool students were homeless in SY 2014–15. The number of homeless pre-Kindergarten students increased slightly, while the number of poor pre-Kindergarten students in the state decreased by 23%, from 2,118 to 1,625. Over this period, the state undertook several legislative and administrative actions to improve Maine’s ability to serve more poor and homeless students in its pre-Kindergarten programs in the years to follow.

In 2013, the State Agencies Interdepartmental Early Learning Team was created to ensure interagency coordination in reforming early education between the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services. The Maine Department of Education was awarded a federal Preschool Expansion Grant for $14.8 million in 2014. This grant creates pre-Kindergarten programs in the 13 school districts with the highest percentages of low-income students over the course of four years. In all of the school districts that are receiving funds, over half of their elementary school students qualify for free- or reduced-price lunch. By the end of the fourth year of the grant, Maine will have created 33 new classrooms and will have expanded 23.

The Maine Legislature passed an act in 2014 requiring that each school district provide a publicly-funded preschool program by the 2018–19 school year. This law will vastly improve accessibility to pre-Kindergarten for homeless and low-income children, who may live in currently underserved areas. The percentage of the state’s four-year-olds enrolled in pre-Kindergarten has been steadily increasing, with 36% of all four-year-olds enrolled in state pre-Kindergarten in 2015. In 2015, Maine revised and replaced their State of Maine Early Childhood Learning Guidelines, creating Maine’s Early Learning and Development Standards. Early childhood education in Maine is not only becoming accessible to all children, but all programs will be held to the same high-quality standard.