Texas Ranks 3rd in Nation for Homelessness in Public Schools

Our daily roundup of Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelMarch 14, 2017 11:30 am

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

Texas has the third largest number of homeless kids in public schools in the country. KERA’s Bill Zeeble reports, that a new study suggests these kids fall behind academically because they’re more prone to health problems.

The study from the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness ties homelessness and health to school performance. For example, in districts with more homeless kids than average. about a third of 3rd graders can read proficiently. In those with a below average homeless rate, more kids can read – almost half of those measured. Jeanne Stamp is the Project Director of the Texas Homeless Education Office in Austin. While her department focuses on academics, she works with health agencies because she agrees with the new study: performance suffers when health does.

“For us those issues come into play because obviously children that have those issues that go untreated without access to care aren’t very likely to be attending school very regularly or being successful in school,” she says. 

The report says homeless high school students have worse health outcomes than others, they disproportionately face the most extreme health risks, and are also more likely to take advantage of school-based clinics. The study also suggests more homeless students are depressed and arrive to school hungry than those who aren’t.”

As of 2014 – the most recent year for available data – there were over 100,000 homeless people in Texas.

One-thousand people in the South Texas town of Mission have signed a petition that opposes the construction of a shelter for immigrant children in their area, saying it “could devalue their property.”

Kristian Hernandez, reporter for The Monitor in McAllen, says the Rio Grande Valley Baptist Church was planning to build a 27-acre facility to house unaccompanied minors caught crossing the U.S. border. He explains that many of the residents pushing back against the plan are retired Texans who winter in Mission.

“At least half of them come down and they don’t live their year round, but the other half do,” he says. 

The city’s mayor, Norberto “Beto” Salinas, has said that he doesn’t support the construction of the shelter.

A Texas Senate committee has approved changes to the state’s voter ID law. The new bill was filed in response to a federal court ruling that found the prior ID law discriminatory.

At Monday’s hearing, many praised the new law’s changes. It would allow people without an approved form of ID to vote by signing an affidavit that they had a “reasonable impediment” to obtaining a photo ID. But others are worried about the new criminal penalty for falsifying an affidavit. Matt Simpson is with the ACLU of Texas:

“The felony in the third degree is a pretty serious penalty – it’s something that I think we as a state, as a policy matter, should reserve for violent and terrifying conduct,” Simpson says. 

Texas is considered to have the nation’s strictest voter ID laws.