Crete-Monee leads area in homeless students

Tammy Burnham

Tammy Burnham

by Dennis Sullivan 
May 20, 2014

Crete-Monee 201U has the highest number of homeless students of nine area school districts, according to responses to a Crete resident’s Freedom of Information Act request.

With a whopping 130 homeless students, Crete-Monee has more than the combined number of homeless students at seven nearby districts. Only Rich Township SD227, with 106 homeless students, comes close.

On a percentile basis, Crete-Monee, with homeless students accounting for 2.71 percent of its student population, fell slightly behind Rich Township, which has a student population that encompasses 2.9 percent homeless.

Tammy Burnham, a regular at Crete-Monee school board meetings, said she sought out the information from the nine school districts because she was concerned about the $9,000 it costs to educate a student.

$1.17M to educate
With 130 students, that comes to 1.17 million — not including the $36,000 Crete-Monee typically spends each year to transport the homeless students, Burnham said.

The financially strapped state is supposed to reimburse 60 percent of the transportation expense, according to the school district.

“They’re not doing anything to protect my tax dollars,” said Burnham, who intends to address the board at today’s 6:30 p.m. meeting at Crete-Monee High School.

She acknowledged school districts are required by the McKinney Vento Homeless Education Act to educate children who have no permanent address. The Act allows the child to choose to attend either his or her original school or to attend any public school in his or her attendance area.

The Act also says the the school district may not require the child to present a birth certificate, health/medical records, previous academic records, proof of residence or proof of guardianship.

But Burnham says school districts can investigate a homeless claim, adding, “They can’t be harsh; they can’t be intrusive.”

Brenda Allred Messex

Brenda Allred Messex

Messex request unanswered

In a related request, Crete resident Brenda Allred Messex filed a FOIA request related to Crete-Monee buses transporting students between the district schools and the Metra station in University Park.

“These children are supposedly homeless,” she said. “Who’s paying for the trains? I don’t think we have that many homeless students from Crete that are coming in by train.”

Messex received no answer to that question from Asst. Supt. George Elrod, the district’s FOIA officer, in his heavily redacted reply.

Messex said she wasn’t surprised, but said she was “hoping it would be a nudge to them to use information with the Department of Human Services to verify someone is actually homeless.”

Burnham isn’t optimistic, saying Crete-Monee School District 201U’s failure to perform any kind of verification has made the district “an easy mark.

“Why would you get on the train and come to Crete when you can get off for Homewood-Flossmoor?” she asked rhetorically. “Because they (the H-F administration) investigate.”

Will County comparison

  • Crete-Monee 201U: 130 students; 2.71%;
  • Beecher 200U: 3 students; 0.28%
  • Frankfort SD157C: 4 students; 0.16%
  • Lincoln-Way SD210: 7 students; 0.10%
  • Peotone207U: 16; 0.95%

Cook County comparison

  • Crete-Monee 201U: 130 students; 2.71%;
  • Rich Township 227: 106; 2.9%;
  • H-F 223: 50; 1.77%
  • Bloom 206: 24; 0.73%
  • Orland 135: 7; 0.14%

Original material copyright 2014 Eastern Will County News; all rights reserved.

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