- Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner is calling on California Gov. Gavin Newsom to consider the role of schools in supporting the district’s 17,000 homeless students as the governor proposes to spend $1 billion to address rising homelessness across the state.
- “The state should create a pilot program to provide funding to certain schools in Los Angeles Unified to hire counseling staff with the specific responsibility to connect these students and their families to services,” Beutner wrote in a letter last week to Newsom and the leaders of his Commission on Homelessness and Supportive Housing. “To date, no funding has been provided to schools to do this work. All of the state and local funding has gone to the counties and cities and their efforts, however well-intentioned, have not been directed at these students and their families who we know are experiencing homelessness.”
- According to an LAUSD spokesperson, Beutner has not received a response from the governor’s office.
The letter follows an op-ed from Beutner that ran before Christmas in which he estimated the true count of homeless students in the district is likely closer to 25,000 “if one were to include families who are afraid to let anyone know because of the stigma their status might bring.” He called for more interagency collaboration and wrote, “We share information with the city and county to serve foster students and need to do the same for students experiencing homelessness.”
In early December, Beutner and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced 500 LAUSD families would gain access to Section 8 housing vouchers from the city’s housing agency. The assistance follows a pilot program for 50 families in the Northeast San Fernando Valley, where at one school — Telfair Avenue Elementary School — roughly a quarter of the school’s population is homeless.
A recent study shows such subsidies can lead to improved academic performance. More than a year ago, the district also began looking at what it could do with district-owned property to create more affordable housing and short-term options for families.
The governor’s proposals include $750 million for rental assistance and almost $700 to address health needs among “chronically unsheltered populations.” As part of an executive order signed last week, Newsom also announced the creation of a “multi-agency state crisis response team” that will focus on “street homelessness,” but it’s unclear whether the education sector would be a part of that effort.
Because the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines homelessness differently from the U.S. Department of Education, housing assistance tends to first go to those in shelters and on the street, while families are more likely to be doubled up in apartments or sleeping in cars. But the First 5 Association, which represents local First 5 early education agencies in the state, said the governor’s plan will benefit families with young children “who account for one third of the state's homeless population,” according to a press release.
At the federal level, advocacy organizations and some members of Congress have been trying to bring more agreement between ED’s and HUD’s approaches.
Newsom’s 2020-21 budget plan does hit an “all-time high” in spending for K-12 schools and community colleges. It includes $900 million to address teacher shortages and more than $30 million to expand state-funded preschool.