Federal Policy

New Federal Guidance on Special Education: Implications for Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness

The guidance was issued in response to findings that many States have not been consistently complying with the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

On July 24, 2023, the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) released updated guidance to improve educational opportunities for children and youth with disabilities. The guidance was issued in response to findings that many States have not been consistently complying with the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Students with disabilities are over-represented among students experiencing homelessness: of the 1.1 million students identified as experiencing homelessness in 2020-21, 20% (about 221,000) were children with disabilities, compared to 15% of the overall student population. Infants and toddlers who experience homelessness also have higher rates of developmental delays and disability. (To find out how many children and youth with disabilities were identified as experiencing homelessness in your state, county, school district, or Congressional district, visit our data profiles.)

IDEA includes a number of provisions specific to children and youth experiencing homelessness, including:

The updated guidance aims to help States fulfill their general supervision responsibilities under IDEA, which includes the responsibility to ensure that the requirements of the McKinney-Vento Act are met for all children with disabilities who are experiencing homelessness. Specifically, the IDEA guidance stipulates that:

Increasing compliance with IDEA ensures that children and youth experiencing homelessness with disabilities have access to the services they need to be successful in school and in life. Collaboration across programs also can support children and youth experiencing homelessness. Liaisons can:

Using ARP-HCY to Support Children and Youth with Disabilities: Spotsylvania County Public Schools, Virginia

Spotsylvania County Public Schools (SCPS) is combining ARP-HCY funds and special education funds to support the position of a Transition Specialist to meet the need of providing additional support for students with disabilities. The Transition Specialist works with students experiencing homelessness who also have IEPs, reviewing every transcript to ensure that students are on track toward graduation and that services in the IEP align with the classes that students are taking. The Transition Specialist also connects with other school staff for additional supports and services that are not part of the IEP; builds rapport with parents to help find other outside resources to help meet their child’s out-of-school needs; and educates Special Education case managers on McKinney-Vento and the impact that homelessness has on students with disabilities. When ARP-HCY funds are no longer available, this position will be funded by Special Education and local funds.

“It’s not that our social workers can’t do intense case management, but our Specialists have the time so they can expand the capacity of our district to do more. None of this would be possible without ARP-HCY funds.” Michelle Swisher, McKinney-Vento Liaison, Spotsylvania County Public Schools (SCPS)