Homeless Students Left Wondering About Education After Cuts to Federal Funding
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — More than 1,000 homeless students are helped by the Students in Transition program in Kansas City, Mo., schools. The program provides anything from clothes to food, school supplies, even rides to and from school. Now with federal funding cut off, only two staff members remain, servicing 34 schools, and homeless students are worried.
“If you had to walk in my shoes, I would feel very sorry for you,” said Jacob Woodall, a seventh grader at North East High School. “Because I don’t think other people deserve the way I’m living right now.”
Woodall, his younger sister and their mother have been living in the City Union Family Homeless Shelter for the past three weeks. Before that they were staying on the streets, in hotel lobbies, hospitals or with friends.
“I’m not embarrassed about it,” Woodall said. “But it’s kind of hard to tell people that you’re homeless and stuff.”
Because of the programs like Students in Transition, school is often the only constant in a homeless child’s life. The staff in the program are like their guardian angels.
“We wouldn’t be going to school right now if it wasn’t for them, and I’m very thankful for that,” Woodall said.
Woodall’s mother, Teri Woodall, is also thankful.
“They’ve been very helpful over there,” she said. “They gave us everything that I needed for them.”
With ongoing accreditation problems, students are transferring out of the Kansas City Missouri School District. That leads to losses in state and local funding, which led to the federal government cutting off a $150,000 grant to the homeless youth program. The loss leaves three of the five staff members out in the cold.
“If they weren’t there, where would all of us be?” said Woodall.
“Lost in the red tape,” answered his mother, Teri.
It also leaves students like Woodall wondering if he will still have a ride to school next week or if he will be able to call for help when he needs it.
“I try and think about other positive things,” he said.
In a statement, the KCMO district said it will not abandon the students and will continue to provide the help they need and deserve. But with just two staff members left, dealing with a caseload of more than 500 students each, not everyone is so sure.
“I think they will still try their hardest, but I don’t know if they can spread themselves that thin,” Teri said.
The Missouri Department of Secondary and Elementary Education acknowledges that the district faces money problems, but that it didn’t do enough to maintain funding for the homeless student program. The state said that’s why the money was pulled and it has already been re-distributed to other schools.