Advocates sound alarm over student homelessness

More than 7,800 Idaho students were homeless last school year.

The problem is an offshoot of the state’s rapid growth, a Boise-based advocacy group said in a news release Tuesday.

“Rents have risen out of proportion with wages over many years, causing more and more families and students to double up with other families, live in motels and hotels, or live unsheltered,” said Alejandra Cerna Rios, a policy analyst with the Idaho Asset Building Network.

More than 40 percent of these homeless students attended public schools in Ada or Canyon counties, the epicenter of growth in the state.

“When the families of our students have access to safe, affordable, quality housing, it positively impacts every aspect of their child’s education,” Caldwell district Superintendent Shalene French said. “The stability of living in an affordable home in a safe neighborhood allows our students to maximize their educational achievement.”

In 2017-18, 452 Caldwell students were homeless, accounting for about 7 percent of district enrollment.

But the problem is not limited to the Treasure Valley, the Idaho Asset Building Network pointed out in its news release. In rural districts from Clark County to Payette to Lapwai, more than 10 percent of students are homeless. (Click here to download homeless student statistics by district and charter.)

The prognosis is not entirely bleak. In August, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved a spending bill that increases vouchers for families that need help covering rent.

The number of homeless students has increased by nearly two thirds over the past seven years, but the figures have fluctuated considerably from year to year. Here’s the breakdown, from the State Department of Education:

School year Number of homeless students
2010-11 4,758
2011-12 7,016
2012-13 6,325
2013-14 6,666
2014-15 7,441
2015-16 8,244
2016-17 7,816
2017-18 7,820


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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