Number of homeless students in state hits new high

40,934 statewide; Kent School District total 509

  • Thursday, April 12, 2018 3:08pm
  • News
Number of homeless students in state hits new high

About one out of every 25 K-12 students in Washington state – nearly one in every classroom – is homeless, living in hotels or in cars, or with friends.

Numbers released Thursday by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction show that in 2016-2017, 40,934 Washington students were counted as homeless – a 3.2 percent increase from 2015-2016. This is the ninth year in a row the population of students experiencing homelessness has increased.

A total of 509 students were counted as homeless in the Kent School District, according to the report. Kent had 559 homeless students in 2015-2016, 501 in 2014-2015, 463 in 2013-2014 and 420 in 2012-2013. The numbers are reported to the state by school districts. Kent had 27,896 students enrolled in 2016-2017.

“Homelessness puts incredible strain on families,” said Chris Reykdal, Superintendent of Public Instruction in a news release. “The students might be staying somewhere unsafe. And they may not have the time or a consistent place to study.”

This can lead to higher absenteeism and lower student achievement, Reykdal said. Graduation rates also suffer: The four-year rate for students experiencing homelessness in the Class of 2017 was 53.9 percent. For all students, the rate was 79.3 percent.

“Students experiencing homelessness need a place that is stable, a place where they are supported and nurtured,” Reykdal said. “For some, that place is school.”

The federal McKinney-Vento Act provides that those students be given the same access to their education as other students and cannot be separated from other students. Where feasible, the students can remain in the district they were in before becoming homeless and are provided transportation to and from school.

Specific reasons for the increase in students experiencing homelessness are difficult to determine at the state level. Local community factors, such as a lack of affordable housing options, a reduction in services, or unemployment or under-employment, may contribute.

The McKenney-Vento law provides some funding for states. Typically Washington receives about $1 million annually. Given in the form of competitive grants, the money goes to school districts with the greatest need and can be used for a variety of purposes, such as:

• Helping to minimize the excess cost of transportation

• Tutoring, instruction, and enriched educational services

• Providing supplies and other educational materials

• Providing early childhood education programs

The State Homeless Student Stability Program also provides supports and resources for the education of students experiencing homelessness. A total of $850,000 is being awarded for the remainder of 2017-2018 to 12 school districts. The funds will be used for a variety of programs, such as professional development for staff and partnerships with community-based organizations, that support students experiencing homelessness.

As defined by McKinney-Vento, a student is homeless if they lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. The definition also includes students who are “doubled up,” which occurs when the student doesn’t have a fixed address but instead must stay with family or friends at various times.

The new data show the largest increase in students experiencing homelessness occurred with those who are unsheltered, which includes, for example, students living in parks, abandoned buildings, cars, or on the streets. In the 2015-2016 school year, there were 2,134 such students; in 2016-2017, there were 2,753 an increase of 29 percent.

In 2016-2017, Kent had 77 students in shelters, 329 “doubled up” with friends, 27 unsheltered and 76 in hotels or motels.

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

SeaTac man sentenced to life in 2021 Des Moines triple murder

Jury convicted Joshua Puloka in May of shootings outside of sports bar

Tacoma woman, 18, faces vehicular assault charge after Kent crash

Reportedly had been drinking; female passenger, 18, in her vehicle suffers injuries

Cristopher Ruvalcaba (Court documents.)
Two Auburn men sentenced in murder of Kent man at Southcenter Mall

Chris Wesolowicz was shot in a carjacking incident on Nov. 18, 2022.

Asylum seekers again ask for former Kent Econo Lodge to be reopened

Several testify at Kent City Council meeting; but King County has no plans to open hotel

Volunteers enjoy the sunshine at Renton’s 2024 Juneteenth Celebration. The weather will be sunny this weekend as summer officially starts. Photo by Bailey Jo Josie/Sound Publishing
Summer kicks off with 80-degree weekend weather

Puget Sound region weather forecast for June 21-23.

Most Kent crime numbers declining so far in 2024 compared to 2023

Homicides, robberies, vehicle thefts, residential burglaries fewer in first 5 months

Kent Police chief says they have ‘strong leads’ in student’s fatal shooting

Rafael Padilla ‘cautiously optimistic’ detectives will solve who shot Kent-Meridian High student

Latter-day Saints make large food donation to Kent, Renton groups

Semi delivers shipment for Kent Food Bank, John Volken Academy and two local churches

Police arrest Kentridge High student who reportedly had gun on campus | Update

17-year-old boy under investigation for unlawful possession of a firearm and fourth-degree assault

Juneteenth flag goes up at Kent City Hall

Mayor Dana Ralph and Gwen Allen-Carston raise the flag for June 19

State Patrol honors 7 Kent Police Department members in trooper shooting

Officers helped save the life of Trooper Seaburg in February incident; detectives built case

Police arrest Kent boy, 16, for vehicular assault after 3-car collision

Teen and three others injured, two critically; boy reportedly stole vehicle prior to June 17 crash on East Hill