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Taxpayer funds for homeless new arrival students included in grant expansion

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(The Center Square) – Illinois House Bill 5407, subject to appropriation, expands the permitted uses of funds received from the Education of Homeless Children and Youth State Grant Program. The bill passed both chambers and can now be sent to the governor.

The Illinois State Board of Education wants 25% of the appropriation for administrative costs instead of 5%. State Sen. Steve McClure, R-Springfield, supported the bill despite concerns about high administrative costs.

“Within this legislation there is an administrative cost, which is 25%, which is roughly $4 million,” McClure said during floor debate. “Why is there this excessive $4 million amount that has to go to administrative fees?”

The bill sponsor, state Sen. Adriane Johnson, D-Buffalo Grove, said that ISBE came up with the percentage. The bill says grants shall be made to school districts based on the percentage of students experiencing homelessness in the district. School districts with over 100 students can apply for grants.

“Normally I would never support an administrative fee at this level but ISBE, and they’re the experts on this, they tell us they need more funds to add more liaisons for this program. Right now, there’s only one liaison handling the school districts throughout Illinois and this will provide the funds to hire additional resources for additional support for this program,” said Johnson.

If signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, school districts would be permitted to use grant funding for rental assistance, transportation, emergency shelter assistance, case management services and other housing strategies.

McClure asked if the funds school districts receive can be used to serve non-citizen students. Johnson said the bill aims to provide additional support for students already in the public education system.

“If there are any students who are new arrivals and they are in the system, they can certainly take advantage of this system,” said Johnson.

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson has issued migrant shelter stay limits. Migrants who are eligible can receive an extension. If migrants enroll their children in CPS, that could result in an extended stay at one of the near 25 migrant shelters. As of February 2024, 12,438 migrants in 24 shelters across Chicago were being cared for by the city, according to city data.

McClure voted “yes” on the bill that now heads to the governor’s desk for further action. Nine senators voted “no.”

“Despite my reservations about the cost, I do want to make sure to help the homeless kids of this state and for that reason I encourage a ‘yes’ vote,” said McClure.

Pritzker’s budget proposal in February did not include an additional $35 million to support migrant students that the Illinois State Board of Education had requested in the budget proposal it submitted in January.

State Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Chicago, has House Bill 2822 and House Bill 3991, which would allow the board to create a $35 million New Arrival Grant program that would give funding to schools to aid migrant students. Crespo’s bills remain in committee.