McKinney-Vento: Federal Homeless Education Legislation

The McKinney-Vento Act was enacted due to the numerous barriers homeless children faced in obtaining a free, appropriate public education.

During the 1980s, the federal government recognized the magnitude of the problem of homelessness within our country and, more specifically, the increasing incidences of homelessness among families with children and unaccompanied youth. To address this issue, Congress passed the Stewart B. McKinney Act, reauthorized most recently as the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

This act guarantees homeless children and youth the following:
  • The right to immediate enrollment in school even if the normally required paperwork is incomplete or missing.
  • The right to attend school in his/her school of origin (if requested by the parent and feasible) or in the school in the attendance area where the family or youth currently resides.
  • The right to receive transportation to his/her school of origin, if requested by the parent.
  • The right to services comparable to those received by housed schoolmates, including transportation and supplemental educational services.
  • The right to attend school along with children not experiencing homelessness. Segregation based on a student’s status as homeless is strictly prohibited.
  • The posting of homeless students’ rights in all schools and other places around the community.
Who is homeless?

The term “homeless children and youth” is defined by the McKinney-Vento Act as individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, including;

  • Children and youths who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; are abandoned in hospitals; or a awaiting foster care placement.
  • Children and youths who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.
  • Children and youths who are living in a cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus/train stations, or similar settings.
  • Migratory children who qualify as homeless for the purposes of this subtitle because the children are living in circumstances described above.
Should school fees be waived for homeless students?

School related fees should be waived for homeless students. Fee Waiver (PDF).

Unaccompanied Minor

The McKinney-Vento  Act also protects youth who are not in the physical custody of a parent or a guardian. Such unaccompanied minors include runaways living in runaway shelters, abandoned buildings, or cars, on the streets, or in other inadequate housing; children and youth denied housing by their families; school-age unwed mothers living in homes for unwed mothers because no other housing is available.

If you have questions regarding the education of homeless children, please call:

Dr. Lynn Zeder or Beth Maloney, South Cook ISC Region 7