According to a 2009 study, four in 10 children in Milwaukee are poor. Milwaukee Public Schools is the largest school district in Wisconsin with an enrollment of 80,000 students — 80 percent qualify for free or reduced-priced meals. More than 2,500 students have been identified as homeless.
Despite these figures, the school district has taken strides towards improving attendance rates and increasing outreach efforts to families and community agencies, and last year the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth recognized Milwaukee Public Schools for its outstanding school-based program in homeless education.
Milwaukee Public Schools has employed a homeless coordinator since 1987, although they mostly worked with shelters until the 2002 McKinney-Vento Act. During the 2011 fiscal year, the McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youths Grant allocated $63.6 million across the country, helping every state address the problems associated with student homelessness. In the Milwaukee School District, the McKinney-Vento grant, along with Title I funding, support three homeless coordinators, with the requirement that school districts remove all barriers to the educational process for homeless children and reach out to more homeless kids – including those who have sleeping arrangements that are not permanent or regular.