Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill (“AB”) 27 and Senate Bill (“SB”) 400 into law on September 29, 2021. These two measures are part of a broader legislative package signed into law aimed at addressing homelessness by improving the accuracy of identification of people experiencing homelessness and facilitating expanded services.
According to data compiled by the United States Department of Education, California has experienced a 48-percent increase in pupil homelessness over the last decade, and the California Department of Education (“CDE”) reports that over 269,000 pupils in grades K-12 experience homelessness.
The purpose of this Legal Update is to summarize the two new measures that relate to Local Educational Agencies (“LEAs”) in an effort to coordinate efforts between schools and county and state agencies to facilitate an integrated, centered response to the problem of homelessness among California’s K-12 students and their families.
Assembly Bill 27
AB 27 requires every LEA that receives funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund to administer a housing questionnaire to identify all homeless and unaccompanied students. Commencing with the 2021-2022 school year, LEAs must ensure the following:
- The questionnaire is provided annually to all parents or guardians of pupils and to all unaccompanied youths of the LEA
- The questionnaire is available in paper form
- The questionnaire includes an explanation of the rights and protections a student has as a homeless child or youth or as an unaccompanied youth
- The questionnaire must be made available in the primary language of the unaccompanied youth of the pupil’s parent or guardian pursuant to Education Code section 48985 or an appropriate translation of the housing questionnaire shall be provided upon request.
The LEA must collect the completed housing questionnaires and report annually to the CDE the number of enrolled homeless students and unaccompanied youths. All data collected by the CDE or by a LEA must be used in accordance with all state and federal laws regarding pupil privacy and the collection and use of pupil data.
AB 27 also requires that the LEA post on its website a list of the LEA liaisons (and any persons under contract to assist the liaisons) for homeless children and youths and unaccompanied youths in that school district, charter school, or county office of education, respectively, the contact information for those liaisons, and specific information regarding the educational rights and resources available to persons experiencing homelessness.
Further, AB 27 authorizes the CDE to use federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act funds to establish up to three technical assistance centers through county offices of education in different regions throughout the state to foster relationships between community partners and local educational agencies in each region. These centers will create and facilitate the implementation of training materials to help outline the needs of homeless youth and their families, develop and disseminate best practices for counties of varying sizes to support the academic outcomes of homeless students and unaccompanied minors, as well as assist LEAs in ensuring accuracy in the identification of homeless students. County offices of education will have the opportunity to apply through a competitive process to be a technical assistance center.
AB 27 is an urgency bill, which means it went into effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature on September 29, 2021. That means LEAs should immediately begin implementing the provisions of AB 27. The CDE has a model housing questionnaire that LEAs can adapt and use, which can be found here, and its guidance, found here. These documents are also attached for reference.
Senate Bill 400
The federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act provides grants to states to carry out activities related to the education of homeless children and youths. The Act requires a state plan to include assurances that LEAs will designate an appropriate staff person to act as the LEA liaison for homeless children and youths and a description of how the state will ensure that LEAs will comply with the requirements of McKinney-Vento, including the identification of homeless children and youths. Education Code section 48852.5 already requires LEA liaisons for homeless students to ensure that public notice of the educational rights of homeless children and youths is disseminated in schools that provide services pursuant to McKinney-Vento.
Senate Bill (“SB”) 400, which will go into effect on January 1, 2022, works in conjunction with AB 27 to amend Education Code section 48852.5. It adds Education Code section 48851.5 to require a liaison for homeless students of an LEA, defined to include a school district, county office of education, charter school, or special education local plan area, to ensure the identification by school personnel of those children and youths. This is to be done through outreach and coordination activities with other organizations and the referral of services to homeless families and homeless children and youth.
This bill requires that the LEA liaison for homeless students to refer homeless families and youth to health care services, including dental, mental health, and substance abuse services, and housing services.
SB 400 requires the CDE to develop and implement a system to verify that LEAs are providing the federally required training to school personnel at least annually. The CDE is also required to develop and implement procedures to verify key information that LEAs submit to comply with federal law under McKinney-Vento, and review the information submitted by LEAs to ensure compliance with federal law. The CDE also is now required to remind each LEA with outdated information to update its policies to reflect current requirements.
To the extent that SB 400 imposes additional duties on LEAs, the bill imposes a state-mandated local program for which LEAs may be reimbursed pursuant to the statutory provisions for mandated programs.
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The information in this Legal Update is provided as a summary of law and is not intended as legal advice. Application of the law may vary depending on the particular facts and circumstances at issue. We, therefore, recommend that you consult legal counsel to advise you on how the law applies to your specific situation.
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 See AB 27, Section 1, subdivision (c).