Homelessness among Wyoming students grew 40 percent from the 2012-2013 to 2013-2014 school year, according to data released this week by the U.S. Department of Education.
That’s more than four times the average increase seen around the country—and means the number of homeless students in the Cowboy State has doubled since the recession.
Kenya Haynes is the coordinator for homeless children and youth at the Wyoming Department of Education. She says the increase is due in part to the fact that Wyoming is getting better at identifying and counting homeless students—who face big obstacles in education.
“Students who experience homelessness during their school career actually have the lowest graduation rates in the state of Wyoming,” says Haynes. “There’s something about not having a stable place to rest your head in the evening that just makes getting that high school diploma much more difficult.”
Despite the huge increase in its homeless student count, Haynes says Wyoming still receives the minimal amount of federal funding to provide services to homeless students—which means it must do more with less. The amount available per-pupil has dropped from about $360 to $100 in the past 5 years.
“Our per-pupil funding has actually decreased from about $363 per pupil experiencing homelessness in the 2008-2009 school year down to about $100 per pupil in the 2013-2014 school year,” says Haynes. “So, the resources to reach these populations are very thin.”
There were 1,457 Wyoming students experiencing homelessness in the 2013-2014 school year, according to the federal data—up from about 730 in 2007-2008.