AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – Two year warning sign. Two years of accelerating necessity. Two years of emergency funds – more than $186 million.
Only now, following an ITEAM investigation and a recent additional state grant, has the Richmond County Board of Education agreed to provide additional funding to meet the growing need among homeless students and the record number of teens absent from the classroom.
But ITEAM revealed that the district knew it needed additional resources to help the growing homeless population within the school system — even before more than 900 students were identified as homeless last school year. Now, a record-breaking number of high school students are missing from the classroom as resources finally began to trickle out of the district.
Homeless students are stuck in learning difficulties. We have shown you the families with small children who have no opportunity to come to school. No bus or taxi and no home to study remotely as they are homeless.
ITEAM was present at the very first Education Committee meeting following our investigation, when homeless students who were struggling to get to school were uncovered. We’ve also discovered a record-breaking number of high school students missing from Richmond County classrooms.
Elected school officials took action and agreed to provide funds to bring homeless students to school.
This grant would allow us to buy a van, not 15 passengers, I think eight passengers at a time. So if we could get a driver who would help our transportation department not totally re-route to make these transitions when transporting students like you mentioned.
The $349,000 grant for homeless children and youth is part of the American Rescue Plan, also known as the ARP.
Does not replace ARP funds to support the needs of students affected by homelessness. Weeks before the Education Committee meeting, the ITEAM asked Dr. Aronica Gloster after the scholarship money.
Liz: “If you had 900 homeless students last year, I would think some of the scholarship proposals would target that demographic.”
Gloster: “You mean generally with the ARP.”
Liz: “With the ARP grant?”
Gloster: “And we’re waiting for the latest funding specifically for homelessness and transportation is one of the main concerns there and funding to get an additional social worker to specifically focus on homeless students.”
But ITEAM noted that the $349,000 grant for homeless children and youth is a drop in the bucket compared to the total funding the state of Georgia has awarded to the Borough of Richmond County over the past two years .
That includes nearly $117 million from the American Rescue Plan and another $51 million from other federal Covid funding. Millions more in other relief funds.
Overall, the state has approved more than $186 million for the Richmond County School District.
Nearly $200 million, which the state school principal clearly outlines, is intended to help vulnerable populations like the more than 900 students the district identified as homeless in Augusta last school year.
Documents obtained by ITEAM from the Georgia Department of Education show that even before the pandemic began, district leaders knew they needed additional resources to serve the growing number of homeless students.
ITEAM received a district internal needs assessment report for the 2020-2021 school year that was released just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the US and schools were closed. In this report, listed under the challenges, it says:
“Insufficiently identified homeless students…inaccurate data entry…increased need for outreach and lack of funding to efficiently and effectively identify and support homeless families. Additional staff needed… Driver shortages increase the time it takes to assign a route. Intermediate journeys are very expensive.”
Only now, two years later, amid a housing and homelessness crisis and our ITEAM investigation, is the Board committing funds to fill the gap from additional funding income, rather than the nearly two hundred million the district is already receiving from the state for assistance for homeless children in Richmond County.
This is our third investigation produced as a project for the USC Annenburg Center 2021 Data Grant. We’re still digging through the data and will be sharing our findings with you in the coming weeks.
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