New Report Says Texas Should Help School Districts Support Homeless Students

Our daily roundup of Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelNovember 16, 2017 1:58 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Nearly 3,000 people gathered Wednesday for memorial services honoring 10 victims of the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs. The Holcombe family lost nine people across three generations in the November 5 shooting, including an unborn child. 36-year-old Crystal Holcombe was pregnant when she was killed. Three of her children were killed as well.

Longtime family friend Susan Shanzer told Texas Public Radio that Crystal would occasionally babysit her grandkids.

“She’d have all these children and paper plates everywhere with food,” Shanzer said. “And they were all happy and well fed, and she looked perfectly unruffled.”

The Holcombes were buried in a private ceremony at the Sutherland Springs Cemetery. You can learn more about the memorial and members of the family here.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was in southeast Texas on Wednesday touring schools impacted by Hurricane Harvey. She visited schools in Port Aransas and Houston.

It has been more than two months since the historic storm made landfall and shut down schools. The ongoing impact of Harvey on more than a million students in Texas has led local officials to wonder if the Education Department could adjust testing standards.

Houston Public Media reports that DeVos didn’t say if those accountability standards should be relaxed. However, she did say, “We certainly want to work with the leadership here in Texas to meet the needs of the individual kids who are being served.”

Earlier this week, superintendents of Harvey-affected school districts asked state lawmakers to waive school accountability ratings tied to test scores.

A new study looks at youth homelessness in Texas, and it tackles the issue from a few different angles, including education. For starters, it debunks the idea that this is mostly a problem in urban school districts.

Deborah Fowler is executive director of Texas Appleseed, one of the organizations that worked on the report. “While our cities may have the highest count, overall number of students, children, who are experiencing homelessness, if you look at rates, many rural communities are experiencing that challenge as well,” Fowler says.

When it comes to public schools in Texas, more than 113,000 students experienced homelessness during the 2014-2015 academic year. That’s a 12 percent jump from the year before.

Still, Fowler says one in four school districts did not identify any homeless students.

“While that 113,000 number seems large, we also know based on our research that there are still many schools that are probably under identifying students, particularly unaccompanied homeless students. So that’s actually a conservative number.”

Fowler adds that in Texas schools, the sole source of funding to provide services to homeless students comes from the federal government. The report calls on Texas to start providing state funds to school districts to help serve students who are homeless.