[Hpn] Educators Split on Homeless;LA Times;6/13/01 re: School Segregation
Morgan W. Brown
Wed, 13 Jun 2001 14:36:30 -0400
Below is a forward of an article about the ongoing debate and struggle in
the U.S. Congress (i.e. S.1 - ESEA [the Elementary and Secondary Education
Act Reauthorization bill] and the Kyl/McCain ammendment) and elsewhere
regarding school segregation of students who are homeless which may be of
interest to you and others whom you know if you and they have not already
come across it yet.
For additional information on this subject, please go to:
School Segregation and Homeless Children and Youth:
-- For more information, please contact Barbara Duffield at NCH at
202.737.6444, ext. 18, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Making the Grade: Successes and Challenges in Providing Educational
Opportunities to Homeless Children and Youth:
America's Homeless Children: Will Their Future Be Different? A Survey of
State Homeless Education Programs;1997:
National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH):
Wednesday, June 13, 2001
Los Angeles Times <http://www.latimes.com>
Ventura County News section
Educators Split on Homeless
Learning: Proponents of separate schools cite extra attention. Critics say
segregating such children could be traumatic.
By MARIA L. LA GANGA, Times Staff Writer
STOCKTON--At the Transitional Learning Center, homeless children go to a
separate school housed at a social services complex for the city's poorest
residents. In three cozy classrooms beneath a freeway overpass, students
from kindergarten to sixth grade get counseling, new clothes and lots of
In the East Bay city of Richmond, by contrast, the school district goes to
great lengths to help children stay in the same school they attended when
their families had homes. Stability is key, they figure, for children whose
worlds have fallen apart in every other way.
To those who work to keep homeless children in their original schools,
campuses like the Transitional Learning Center are a travesty, a new
segregation for the New Economy and illegal under federal law.
To those who run the nation's 36 separate schools, keeping homeless children
in the hubbub of a huge, indifferent district only serves to traumatize them
more and drive them out of school entirely.
As the U.S. Senate prepared this week to address how best to educate the
growing number of homeless children, advocates for both positions are
lobbying hard, in a discussion filled with politics, emotion and anecdotal
evidence but very few hard facts.
About 1.35 million children in America are believed to be homeless--about
300,000 of them in California. Those engaged in this fierce debate about how
best to reach them worry that, without an education, these homeless
youngsters will grow up to be homeless adults.
Jeri Cohen, homeless coordinator for the school district that serves
Richmond, says separate schools stigmatize homeless children and give short
shrift to actual teaching. Separate schools emphasize "let's make [the
children] happy," Cohen said. "Those kids also need success in school. We
try to make them happy, but we're also trying to get some academic growth."
Sara Garfield, director of the Stockton school, sees such claims as
political correctness run amok and insists that "to compare us to the
segregation of the '50s is totally unfair. If every public school provided
the kids what they needed, we wouldn't have to open our doors."
The problem, says James Winship, associate professor of sociology at the
University of Wisconsin, Whitewater, is that "there is almost no data on
segregated schools." Winship studies homeless families and has found "very
few places in the country that do a good job showing the impact of education
for homeless children."
Some involved in teaching the homeless even argue that federal law is
ambiguous--at least the way it is enforced in some states. Ostensibly,
states that receive funding through the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless
Assistance Act cannot segregate homeless children.
California receives McKinney funding, yet it has more separate schools than
any state--11 of the 36 listed by the National Coalition for the Homeless,
of which seven are public campuses.
None of California's separate schools gets McKinney funds, although some
schools in other states do, like the Thomas J. Pappas School in Phoenix, the
biggest in the country.
"We get $42,000 in McKinney funds," said Ernalee Phelps, resource
development director at Pappas. Regardless of the law, "the state department
[of education] gives it to us anyway."
As the U.S. Senate began debating the education bill this year, Arizona
Republicans Jon Kyl and John McCain co-wrote an amendment that would allow
schools like Pappas--which President Bush visited while campaigning--to
continue getting McKinney money.
"While some have argued that the existence of programs for homeless children
makes it easier for mainstream schools to evade their obligations under the
McKinney Act, the hard reality is that such programs exist because regular
schools were not meeting homeless children's needs," the senators wrote in a
letter asking for their colleagues' support.
Expert Says Center Meets Variety of Needs
Such logic makes Barbara Duffield, director of education for the National
Coalition for the Homeless, sputter with indignation. McKinney money exists
to help districts break down barriers that keep homeless children out of
school, she says. It does not exist to segregate them further.
Few would argue that the women and men teaching America's homeless children
have anything but those students' best interests at heart. But it is
difficult to figure out which type of school does the best job.
The 80 or so students at Stockton's Transitional Learning Center are now on
a break between the end of the traditional academic year and the beginning
of summer school. The three pink school buildings are quiet. The center's
three credentialed teachers spent much of last week visiting local shelters
for parent-teacher conferences.
Garfield, who founded Stockton's homeless school with the San Joaquin County
Office of Education, says that homeless children have a vast array of
needs--not just educational--and that a center like hers can meet them best.
"Our therapist was trained at the Jungian Institute in Switzerland,"
Garfield said. "These kids need that type of intensive help. They can't be
in school if they're suffering trauma."
Garfield says her students are never around long enough to take standardized
tests that could help track their progress. So it is difficult to compare
their achievement with that of students in other districts.
But all of the center's students are given assessment tests in areas such as
word recognition and comprehension when they arrive. Those who stay 60 days
are given a follow-up test. Between January and May, 84 were pretested. Of
the dozen who had later tests, Garfield said, 10 showed at least a year's
Class size at the center is smaller than at other public schools, with about
five children per adult in each class. Kindergarten and first grade are
combined in one class. Second- and third-graders are taught together, as are
fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders.
The instructional day is an hour or so shorter than in traditional schools,
but not by design. The school has a contract with the Laidlaw bus company to
pick up children at shelters and motels and bring them in. They don't arrive
until 9:40 a.m. "because we have no access to the buses" any earlier,
Garfield said. "The bus takes the Stockton Unified School District kids
Cathy, 38, who asked that her last name not be used, became homeless this
year, knocked down by a bad divorce and a workplace injury. In the past
year, her daughters Ryana, 10, and Sierra, 9, attended three elementary
They just finished the school year at the Transitional Learning Center and
are living at the Stockton Family Shelter next door until they find an
affordable apartment. Cathy would have liked the girls to stay at Reese
Elementary in Lodi, 20 miles away, where they spent most of their elementary
school years. Short of that, she appreciates the small class size at the
"In a larger class, the teacher would barely be lucky to remember their
names," she said. "With everything they're going through, it's nice they get
to hug their teachers."
By contrast, in the West Contra Costa Unified School District, homeless
coordinator Jeri Cohen spends time and money ensuring that the 900 homeless
children she serves attend the same school no matter how many times they
Much of the McKinney Act funding the district receives goes toward bus fare
or gasoline so children who lose their homes can stay in the same school.
Other special funding is used to hire counselors for schools with high
concentrations of homeless children.
Statistics Are Kept on Students' Progress
Cohen cites Grant Elementary School in working-class Richmond as a good
example of what can happen with large doses of planning and caring. As many
as 15% of the students at Grant are homeless, estimates Principal Rene D.
Carranza. Each grade level has its own counseling intern, and 40 children
get help in anger management.
But the key at Grant, says Carranza, is stability and confidentiality. The
school does not go out of its way to identify the homeless children--even to
their teachers. They do make a special effort to keep students coming to
class no matter where they live. Case management is key to keeping them in
Carranza cites two young brothers who, in the last several years, lived in
Richmond, Oakland, Alameda and San Francisco but remained at Grant. Each
morning they arrive at 7:15, eat breakfast, go to class, participate in an
after-school program and then hop a bus home--wherever that is.
In recent years, Cohen has begun keeping statistics on her children's
achievement, tracking such things as attendance and results of standardized
"I can't say we've made tremendous gains," she said. "But I can say that
I've maintained the kids at the same level as . . . other kids of poverty.
They do as well or better than other kids . . . who have homes."
Up on stage at a year-end talent show for fourth through sixth grade at
Grant, a homeless sixth-grader who had been arrested for prostitution at age
12 shimmies through a dance routine with three classmates.
Blending in "may be the greatest sense of normalcy these children feel,"
Carranza said. "Stability and success are what this school can provide."
**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this
material is distributed without charge or profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving
this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**
-------End of forward-------
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA
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