Federal mandates put priorities with homeless students

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – On. Oct. 1, a new regulation was rolled out on the federal level called the Every Student Success Act.

A portion of that legislation include the McKinney-Vento amendments which is targeted towards homeless students.

While USD 259 has been in compliance with much of the act, including some of the new provisions, changes are being made within the system here as the district tries to manage another unfunded mandate.

“We currently have over 1,400 children that have been identified as homeless just this academic school year,” said Cynthia Martinez, the McKinney-Vento liaison for USD 259. “Our numbers are continuously growing.”

To stay up to standard with the new policies being put in place, the district is partnering with employees at the schools.

“We are working with the counselors, we are working with the other staff in the schools to ensure that our high schoolers, they’re being followed, they’re being tracked, so they stay on track that they can get an education and then determine, what do we need to do as a program to ensure that we can help these kids graduate,” said Martinez.

However, as an unfunded mandate, the district says they are looking for ways to pay for it all.

“When you have funding cuts and things like that,” said Martinez, “we have to learn to be creative.”

The district applies for grants and funding available for Title 1 schools. One of the biggest costs that has been picked up has been due to new regulations for school stability—particularly requiring the district to figure out transportation so students can stay at their “school of origin.”

Martinez says that they have made changes in how they get students to the schools.

“Where before, we’ve had individual alternate vehicles go up and pick up our students and take them into schools, we now make sure that our children get to school by getting on buses that are currently existing.”