For Immediate Release
Friday, June 1, 2007

Illinois State Board of Education working with shelters to get homeless students access to education

Distributing question and answer booklets, working with shelters to educate families and schools on homeless education rights

Springfield, Ill. –The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) is working with the state’s homeless shelters to eliminate the barriers homeless students face in getting access to public education. ISBE is in the process of distributing approximately 2,000 question and answer booklets this summer to the state’s homeless shelters so that they will be able to work with homeless families to enroll their children in public schools this coming fall.

“The State Board has made it very clear that the education of our homeless children is a priority. That’s why we are reaching out to social service agencies to make them aware of the educational rights of our state’s homeless students,” said State Superintendent Christopher Koch. “Regardless of why or where students may be homeless, they have a right to go to school. We’re working with these social service agencies so that they know students’ rights, and they’ll be able to help them be ready to enroll in school this fall.”

The Illinois State Board of Education developed the “Illinois Homeless Education Answer Booklet for Shelters,” during this past school year in order to educate shelters and schools on the rights of our state’s homeless youth. To date, more than 1,900 booklets have been sent to shelters throughout Illinois. By the end of this month, copies of the booklet will be sent to all 273 family homeless shelters in Illinois.

“We need to work together to make sure that any family that wants their children in school or any homeless student that wants to be in school, has an opportunity to get an education,” said Mary Kay Bonness, Executive Director of the Good Samaritan House in Granite City, IL. “Building awareness is the start to breaking down barriers and getting our students in school where they belong.”

The “Homeless Education Answer Booklet for Shelters” provides information on how to ensure homeless students get enrolled in school, what school they are eligible to attend, their rights to fee waivers and free lunch and breakfast programs, student transportation and other assistance. The booklet also contains information on the rights of unaccompanied youth, those students between the ages of 12-17 years of age who don’t live with a parent of guardian.

The Illinois State Board of Education has made training school personnel in compassionately identifying students as homeless a priority. Data collected by local school districts in 2006 indicated approximately 18,000 students in Illinois schools were homeless. However, based upon the most current research methodology, and the 750,000 students who receive free or reduced price lunches, it is estimated that the number is more likely 60,000 homeless students in Illinois.

Additional information on homeless education issues can be accessed at or by calling the Illinois State Board of Education Information Hotline at 800-215-6379.