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State Task Force Established on Homeless Education

The Homeless Children’s Education Fund (HCEF) is excited to announce the final passage of Senate Bill 157, which establishes a state task force on homeless education. Governor Corbett signed SB 157 on July 5, 2012 into Pennsylvania state law on July 5, 2012, after the Senate unanimously passed it on June 26, 2012. The task force will survey the statewide population of children living in homeless situations, gathering data such as school attendance rates, test scores, dropout rates, and length of homelessness. It will also assess the relationships between shelters and schools, the barriers to educating children facing homelessness, and the best practices for combating these barriers. There will be report on the results of this study within 24 months, which will be shared with all Pennsylvania housing agencies and school districts. The task force includes 17 members: the Secretary of Education (who will serve as chair), the Secretary of Public Welfare, five representatives from local homeless housing agencies in the state’s five regions, four representatives from school districts (charter, urban, suburban, and rural), three Intermediate Unit representatives, and three social service organizations familiar with the issues surrounding the education of children experiencing homelessness. The task force should have its first meeting within 60 days of the legislation’s effective date, and continue to meet on a quarterly basis. All task force members will be volunteers and unpaid. The PA Department of Education will provide administrative support and assistance. Models of collaboration on this issue developed over the past decade have positioned HCEF well to play a contributing role on the task force. In addition, it will be a great learning opportunity for the partners of HCEF’s initiative, the Homeless Education Network (HEN). The outcomes from the task force have the potential to advance and enhance HEN’s efforts. SB 157’s prime sponsor has been PA State Senator Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny County). It has also been promoted by PA State Senator Pileggi (Senate Majority Leader R-Chester and Delaware Counties) and championed by PA State Representative Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny) in the House. It’s to the credit of several dedicated individuals like these that this legislation made it from its birth to passage as quickly and successfully as it has. Most recently the Allegheny County Council gave a proclamation in honor of the legislation’s passage and reinforced the importance of this bill and its future impact on the Commonwealth. For the full text of the bill, please visit this link.

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