Report: More students in Tennessee homeless

Report: More students in Tennessee homeless

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NASHVILLE (WATE) - State officials said the number of homeless students attending public schools in Tennessee has increased substantially since a national economic downturn that began in late 2007.

The findings were published in a report recently released by the Comptroller's Offices of Research and Education Accountability.

Nationwide, the number of homeless students grew by 38 percent from the 2006-2007 academic year to the 2009-2010 academic year.

In Tennessee, the percentage increase was much higher over the same time span. The number of homeless students in Tennessee grew from 6,565 to 11,458 – a jump of about 74 percent.

There's also evidence to suggest that not all of Tennessee's homeless students were counted.

Several surrounding states including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and Louisiana have identified significantly higher numbers of homeless students.

And some school districts in areas of Tennessee with high unemployment and/or high foreclosure rates have identified no homeless students at all.

The increase in homeless students may be attributable to job losses and other difficulties related to the economy that have affected families, but they may also be the result of some school districts' improved efforts to identify homeless students.

A federal law requires that each school district appoints a local homeless education coordinator to help school personnel identify homeless children and provide access to the same public educational services available to other children.

The federal law addresses some of the problems that homeless children have confronted in enrolling, attending and succeeding in school.

Experts say homelessness can lead to delayed development, learning disabilities and emotional and behavioral problems.

Nationally, fewer than 25 percent of homeless students graduate from high school.

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