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Sen. Patty Murray aims to help students experiencing homelessness with new bill

Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray
Cliff Owen
The Associated Press file
Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray

There's been a steep increase in the number of students experiencing homelessness in Washington in the past decade, and research shows that students without stable housing often struggle in school.

Now, Democratic Sen. Patty Murray said she plans to introduce a bill aimed at helping these students.

More than 40,000 students experienced homelessness in the 2017-18 school year in Washington. That includes young people living doubled up with family or friends, in motels, in vehicles or unsheltered. According to a report by the nonprofit group Building Changes, students experiencing homelessness are suspended more frequently and have lower test scores and lower graduation rates than students with stable housing.

Murray said her legislation, called the Affordable Housing for Educational Achievement Demonstration (AHEAD) Act, would allow school districts to apply for grants in partnership with local housing authorities and other community groups. The funds would come from the U.S. Department of Education.

“We know that the number of homeless children in our state has more than doubled in the past decade, and that is just tragic,” Murray said at a roundtable discussion in Seattle, with officials from the Seattle school district, Seattle Housing Authority and other organizations. “We cannot lose those kids. They are especially vulnerable, and it’s really critical that we make the best choices for them so that they can have the best opportunities to succeed.”

One way that school districts could use the funds is to help families find housing. They also could team up with housing authorities to tackle issues such as chronic absenteeism.