Kentucky has the nation’s highest percentage of children who are homeless and the highest percentage of children who have had an incarcerated parent, according to reports released within the past year.
The root causes of these tragic distinctions should spur solutions from those seeking our votes in November. Meanwhile, the kids whose futures are being foreclosed need help now.
So, it’s good news that for the first time the Fayette County Public Schools will have a full-time staffer working to coordinate support for children who lack a permanent place to live. In the past, this has been a part-time responsibility.
Twelve of Kentucky’s 172 school districts have, or are hiring, full-time homeless education coordinators — up from four in 2014-15, when the Herald-Leader’s Beth Musgrave reported that nearly 5 percent of Kentucky’s 685,167 students were classified as homeless, the nation’s highest rate, according to an analysis of federal data from 2012-13.
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Families often go to great lengths to hide their homelessness, sleeping on couches and in cars and moving among the homes of families and friends. Such insecurity and disruption take an emotional and educational toll on children that homeless coordinators can help ease.
While coordinated efforts have reduced the homeless population living on Lexington’s streets, the number of homeless children identified by the school district has doubled to 795 over the last four years.
Even if some of the increase is a result of better reporting, it’s a number that’s too big to ignore.