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Superintendent Austin Beutner Announces $1 Million Effort to Help Students Experiencing Homelessness and Students Who Are Part of the Foster Care System (10-27-20)

CONTACT:                                                                FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Shannon Haber, 213-393-1289                                   October 27, 2020

Superintendent Austin Beutner Announces $1 Million Effort to Help Students Experiencing Homelessness and Students Who Are Part of the Foster Care System

 

  • Further Response to COVID-19 Crisis 
  • Innovative Partnership by Los Angeles Unified with Verizon Providing the Funds

LOS ANGELES – (October 27, 2020) – Superintendent Austin Beutner announced today a new effort to help students experiencing homelessness and students who are part of the foster care system. Los Angeles Unified will be investing $1 million to provide a supervised place to study, access to childcare and one-on-one tutoring, additional instructional materials and other much-needed supports for students. Packages with surge outlets, noise-canceling headphones, school supplies and additional items, including personal protective equipment, will be provided to help children and their families.

Last school year, the official count of students experiencing homelessness in schools throughout Los Angeles Unified was almost 20,000, with an additional 10,000 students in foster care, though far more students and their families face day-to-day struggles with housing and food insecurity. More than 80% of families with students in Los Angeles Unified schools were living in poverty before the crisis due to COVID-19 began. Since then, an estimated 75% of those families have had someone in the household lose work due to the crisis.

Students in the foster care system are at a significantly higher risk of mental and physical health problems especially during this crisis.

A few figures make clear the need to do everything possible to help these children now.

  • 62% of children placed in foster care come from homeless families. 
  • 87% of homeless youth do not finish high school. 
  • 80% of prison inmates were once involved in the foster care system. 
  • 48% increase in the number of homeless students in the last decade.

 Los Angeles Unified entered into an agreement with Verizon in March for broadband access at a significantly reduced cost, which Los Angeles Unified is providing to students and their families for free. In May, the agreement was amended to enable participation by K-12 schools throughout the state of California. Under the amended agreement, Verizon is providing a per-subscriber contract administration allowance to Los Angeles Unified based on the usage of the agreement elsewhere in California. To date, this allowance has exceeded $1 million.

“The best chance to break this cycle of poverty, homelessness and challenges in the foster care system is to provide all the support we can to children now,” Superintendent Beutner said. “The needs of these children have been made even greater during this crisis brought about by COVID-19. The money provided by the innovative agreement with Verizon is being used to support our students with highest needs.”

While much conversation about the digital divide often centers on rural communities which lack communication infrastructure, there are significant needs in high-poverty urban communities where families cannot afford broadband access. An estimated 25% of the almost 700,000 students in Los Angeles Unified are from households which lack broadband access. 

"At $90,000 per year for foster care, $80,000 per year for incarceration and thousands of uneducated adults, it is economic suicide and morally bankrupt to ignore our youngest and most vulnerable residents,” said Booker Pearson, a member of the Los Angeles Housing Services Authority Commission and chair of the Los Angeles County Commission for Public Social Services. “I’m pleased to see Superintendent Beutner leading the community in responding to the needs of children during this crisis.”

Since schools closed to due to COVID-19, Los Angeles Unified has provided free computers and internet access to any student who needs it. Los Angeles Unified is leading an extraordinary effort to provide food to the community and is now taking this important action to help homeless and foster youth. The Los Angeles Unified program to provide free computers and internet access is one of the most ambitious in the nation. During the April-June portion of last school year and again in the August-October portion of this school year, more than 99% of students in Los Angeles Unified have been connected with their schools online. 

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