Homeless students in Seattle Public Schools in the 2016-2017 academic year rose 22 percent from the year before, according to a report released by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction on Thursday. And the number of homeless students in Washington state is now at an all-time high.
The statistics are especially stark in South Seattle schools. The number of students experiencing homelessness tripled last year since 2010 and totaled about half the homeless student population in the city, according to the Community Center for Education Results.
“Students experiencing homelessness need a place that is stable, a place where they are supported and nurtured,” said Chris Reykdal, superintendent of public instruction, in a statement Thursday. OSPI's report was released months later than usual this year. “For some, that place is school.”
Seattle children made up 10 percent of the state's homeless student population. Overall, 4,280 Seattle public school students were homeless last year compared to 3,498 the year before. More than 1,500 in 2017 were living in shelters, 2,500 living with friends or family, and 125 were unsheltered. (In 2016 data, OSPI counted 84 unsheltered Seattle students.)
The largest increase was in the number of students who were unsheltered, which includes living in vehicles. OSPI saw a total increase of 29 percent in Washington state schools.
The city of Seattle's families and education levy and preschool levy are both up for renewal this year, and city officials could decide to invest more of that funding into services for homeless students. A select committee, which began meeting in March and headed by council members Lorena Gonzalez and Rob Johnson, will likely approve a ballot measure for Seattle voters in November.
Updated 3:24pm on April 13, 2018, to reflect that Rob Johnson also co-chairs the select committee on the 2018 education levy.