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Homeless Student Services (McKinney-Vento)

A pair of hands holding up a house with a heart on it

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act ensures the educational rights and protections of homeless children and youth so that they may enroll in school, attend regularly, and be successful. The legislation requires a local homeless education liaison in every school district to assist children and unaccompanied youth in their efforts to attend school.

This Act guarantees homeless children and youth the following:

  • The right to immediate enrollment in school, even if lacking paperwork normally required for enrollment
  • The right to attend school in his/her school of origin or in the school in the attendance area where the family or youth is currently residing
  • The right to receive transportation to his/her school of origin
  • The right to services comparable to those received by housed schoolmates, including transportation and supplemental educational services
  • The right to an “equal playing field” and the removal of all barriers to receiving 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.

Have you recently lost housing and had to move in with friends or family until you can get back on your feet?
Your child’s school is here to help to make sure that he/she gets all the benefits provided under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Act.

Who qualifies for this help?
The law states any student that does not have a fixed, regular, and adequate place to sleep at night qualifies for educational assistance. This includes students and families that stay at a shelter, on the street, in a car or abandoned building. Families that have lost their housing and need to double-up with friends or relatives because they cannot afford their own place also qualify.

Choice of Schools
Changing schools frequently can negatively impact students' education, causing them to fall behind. Students that qualify for educational assistance through the McKinney-Vento Act can stay at the school they have been attending or transfer to the district in which they are temporarily staying. The caregiver of the student will make the choice. This does not mean you can go to any school. It has to be one of the schools noted above. Once you and your family become permanently housed, your student may finish the school year at his/her current school or transfer to the new district. Your school’s liaison can assist you in whichever decision you make for your student.

Immediate Enrollment
School districts are required to enroll McKinney-Vento eligible students without delay even if you do not have your student’s school or medical records. If you need assistance getting educational or medical records, ask to speak with the district’s liaison. They will assist you.

If you, as the caregiver, choose for your student to remain at the home school, the school district will work with you on transportation options. If the ride to school is estimated to be more than one hour, the district or liaison can request a meeting with you to determine how this may affect your student’s education.

Free Lunch & School Fees
Because of your unstable housing situation, your student is eligible to receive a free lunch each day. In addition, your student should not be charged to attend school. This includes books, gym uniforms, class fees, sports programs, and graduation fees.

Homelessness and Food Resources
The North Cook Immediate Service Center has a variety of resources that can help if you are experiencing homelessness or food insecurity.

Early Childhood
Children under the age of five (5) may qualify for educational services. Speak with your liaison for available programs in your area. 

Settling Disputes
With your McKinney-Vento eligibility, you must be provided with a written explanation of the district’s intent to dispute. Your school district must also provide you with a list of low-cost or free legal services to assist you during the dispute/appeal process. Once you have received notice that your district has filed for dispute, please contact your regional liaison. In the event of a dispute, your Regional Office of Education or Intermediate Service Center will appoint a mediator. The mediator will set a meeting time that is convenient for you and the school district in an attempt to resolve the dispute. If you do not agree with the decision of the mediator, you can appeal to the Illinois State Board of Education.

Subtitle VII-B of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (per Title IX, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act) defines homeless as follows:

The term “homeless children and youths”–

  • (A) means individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence (within the meaning of section 103(a)(1)); and
  • (B) includes–
    • (i) children and youths who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; or are abandoned in hospitals;
    • (ii) 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 (within the meaning of section 103(a)(2)(C)); 
    • (iii) children and youths who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings; and 
    • (iv) migratory children (as such term is defined in section 1309 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965) who qualify as homeless for the purposes of this subtitle because the children are living in circumstances described in clauses (i) through (iii).

District Liaison

If you have any questions or need more information, please contact Mr. Jason Edelheit at or call 847-835-7800.