For the past few years, one of my top legislative priorities has been providing more support for homeless students. The most recent survey by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction found more than 32,000 homeless students in Washington – an unacceptably high number. As we work to provide a great education for all Washington students, we need to recognize the unique challenges faced by homeless students and their families, and we need to go above and beyond to provide them the support they need to succeed.

King 5 recently ran a story describing some of the challenges faced by homeless students and their families, including a story about a single mother with two kids who had to spend the night in a Porta-Potty because it was the only place they could find a locking door to stay safe. How can we expect students to succeed in school when they are sleeping in Porta-Potties, cars, or moving between shelters or the homes of friends and family?

Last year I sponsored and passed the Homeless Student Education Act, the first legislation in state history targeted specifically at supporting homeless students. My legislation this year, SB 5065, would provide homeless students with additional support in their school by hiring more homeless student liaisons, staff specifically trained to work with homeless students and their unique needs, and would additionally provide funds to improve housing stability for these students.

I’m glad to be able to report that this legislation, along with companion legislation in the House sponsored by Rep. Jake Fey, is moving forward. My Senate bill has been passed out of committee and is now under consideration by the budget-writing Ways & Means committee, and Rep. Fey’s House bill was passed out of committee just yesterday.

Supporting homeless students is clearly a high priority for the legislature this session, and I look forward to continuing to work on this issue. I will keep you apprised of new developments and I hope that I’ll be able to report at the end of this session that we’ve passed meaningful legislation to help get these students off the streets and into housing, so they get a fair chance to succeed in school and life.