Update: Transportation for Homeless Students
Effective October 1, 2016 the federal government enacted the ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) in 2015 as successor legislation to the No Child Left Behind Act.Effective Saturday, October 1, 2016
The federal government enacted the ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) in 2015 as successor legislation to the No Child Left Behind Act. The individual states are currently in the process of developing extensive implementation plans and guidelines for every aspect required under the new law.
While there are several different implementation timeframes related to those elements, it is important to know that the ESSA provisions related to the McKinney-Vento Act -- including those affecting transportation -- took effect Saturday, October 1, 2016.
Several states have already or will soon be issuing guidance or regulations regarding the implementation of these provisions. School transportation professionals should be aware of the activities on-going in their states and be alerted to State task forces or working groups charged with addressing these issues. The ESSA calls for such involvement by stakeholders.
We will do our best to stay in front of federally-issued regulations and share them with NAPT members as they become available. We are aware that homeless student transportation has significant operational and cost-related impacts on the nation's schools and students.
With changes in McKinney-Vento that took effect Saturday, October 1st, we thought it would be useful to highlight for NAPT members key changes and to offer suggestions on ways to engage in constructive ways on this issue as school leaders.
Key New Changes to McKinney-Vento
** Note: Changes Went into Effective October 1, 2016 **
Key amendments to the McKinney-Vento Act included in the Every Student Succeeds Act are as follows:
Remainder of the school year
- Transportation is required for the remainder of the school year in which the student moves into permanent housing (Note that this is a significant change from previous years).
- Dispute resolution
Continued enrollment and transportation services are required until there is a final resolution of dispute
- Extra-curricular activities
Districts must eliminate barriers to participation in extra-curricular activities and this could result in additional transportation services and related costs
- Preschool Students Who are Homeless
The McKinney-Vento Act requires LEAs to provide transportation services to the school of origin, which includes public preschools. (Section 722(g)(3)(I)(i)). Accordingly, transportation to the school of origin must be provided even if a homeless preschooler who is enrolled in a public preschool in one LEA moves to another LEA that does not provide widely available or universal preschool.
Next Steps Re: Implementation
- States are developing their extensive State Plans for implementation of ESSA, which must be submitted as early as March 2017;
- Some states will need to amend regulations and/or statutes to allow state law to comply with the new federal law. To some extent these new regulations or laws may affect transportation services;
- Homeless liaisons in local districts will be developing and offering training opportunities for school staff to become aware of the new provisions and to increase awareness of the needs of homeless students.
- School transportation professionals are encouraged to get involved in the implementation of the new provisions as soon as possible at their local district level. The sooner you connect with relevant school officials, the more likely you will have an impact, as this process is moving pretty quickly.
- According to the U.S. Education Department's recent guidance: "The LEA's transportation director is a key figure in the process and should work with district leadership, the local liaison for homeless students, neighboring districts, and homeless service providers to develop effective transportation policies and procedures." It is important that you exercise that role as a "key figure" and it is equally important that you stay abreast of this fluid situation. We will do our best to provide you timely and useful information.
- One of the key points that advocates for the homeless make consistently is that stability for the child is critical to their success in school…a corollary is that transportation is what makes that stability possible. That makes your role critical in your school district and makes it important that you play your role responsibly and in an informed manner.
- Remember that school bus drivers (as has been said so often) are the first school employees to see and hear these homeless students at the beginning of the day and the last to see them at the end of the day. That affords them some interesting insights into the lives of the children and their reaction to what is going on around them. Your drivers should be encouraged to share their observations with you in terms of the emotional state of the child (as they observe it) as well as changes in the child's living situation that may affect their status.
- Driver readiness and awareness can only happen if they are provided with some level of orientation and training; homeless liaisons are responsible for ensuring that such training takes place but there may be state-facilitated training available as well.You should explore such opportunities for your team, especially drivers.
- When you are involved with placement discussions, and the parents of the child are involved, be honest with them about the transportation arrangements. Some would suggest that no one really explains to parents that transportation might take extended time periods or that their child may arrive at home later than they are accustomed to. They ultimately need to decide what's best for their child but it is only fair for them to know all the facts so that they can make an informed decision. You are a key player in that consideration and decision.
CLICK HERE for a copy of the USED Guidance document that summarizes the McKinney-Vento Act changes and implementation requirements. This document can also be found in the Members' Only Section of www.napt.org.
We hope that this summary is of use to all of our members and encourage school transportation professionals to get involved in their local school efforts. School transportation is an integral part of our nation's education system and ensures the safety of our children!