Politics & Government

32,000 homeless students in Washington

More than 3 percent of Washington students are homeless, according to a new state report.

The number of homeless students counted by school districts has grown each time the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction has issued its annual report since at at least the 2008-2009 school year. In the 2013-2014 year, districts reported a new high of 32,494 homeless students.

A full 7.6 percent of black and American Indian students were considered homeless.

The count of homeless students has increased by more than half since 2008 – growth that may be partly due to districts doing a better job keeping track of homelessness.

Still, the report certainly undercounts the total number of homeless kids because it includes only those enrolled in school.

The report found homeless students performed less well academically than their peers.

The new figures are sure to figure in the Legislature’s deliberations over the budget. Anti-poverty advocates want state funding dedicated to homeless student liaisons, the subject of a proposal due to receive a public hearing Tuesday in the Senate education committee.

State lawmakers are under pressure from the state Supreme Court to fully fund basic education, which could limit new money for other needs and wants.

“These numbers make it clear that funding education at the expense of the safety net is a false choice,” Rachael Myers, executive director of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, said in a statement. “Sufficiently funding basic education means funding what children need both inside and outside the classroom.”