Under federal and state law, children and youth experiencing homelessness have a right to a free, appropriate public education (FAPE). The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (federal law) provides assistance to states to help them ensure educational rights and protections for children and youth experiencing homelessness. This program helps State Educational Agencies (SEAs) ensure that homeless children, including preschoolers and youths, have equal access to FAPE, including a public preschool education, as provided to other children and youth.
Consistent with the McKinney-Vento Act, children experiencing homelessness are to be provided services comparable to those received by other students in the school they attend, including transportation services, and education programs for which such students are otherwise eligible, such as services provided under McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 or similar state or local programs and programs for students with disabilities.
State law also addresses the educational rights of children and youth experiencing homelessness. Texas Education Code (TEC) §§ 25.001, 25.002, and 29.153 address educational rights concerning school admission and preschool for homeless students.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) assists states in meeting the early intervention needs of infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families and the special education and related services needs of children with disabilities. The rights and protections applicable to children with disabilities and their parents under IDEA Part B (Grants to states program) and the rights and protections applicable to infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families under IDEA Part C (Infants and Toddlers With Disabilities program) apply to homeless children with disabilities.
States and their public schools also have an affirmative obligation to identify, locate, and evaluate all children residing in the state who are suspected of having disabilities and who are in need of special education and related services, regardless of the severity of their disability. This obligation, known as “child find,” is specifically applicable to homeless children.
The Texas Homeless Education Office (THEO) provides resources and services to ensure that all Texas children living in homeless situations have the opportunity to enroll in, attend, and succeed in school.
The National Center for Homeless Education at SERVE provides research, resources and information enabling communities to address the educational needs of children and youth experiencing homelessness.
The U.S. Department of Education Guidance: Guidance on Homeless Children with Disabilities Q&A provides state and local education officials, early intervention services providers, and homeless assistance coordinators with information to assist with the implementation of the requirements of the IDEA and the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. The document was issued by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS).