Fresno Unified to receive funding for homeless students and foster youth

August 24, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Valley school districts stand to benefit more than originally thought from a new state funding system. That's because it takes into account two new categories of students.

When the state's new "Local Control Funding Formula" was first announced, school districts were told the money was based on the number of English Learners and students of poverty, but now adding homeless students and foster youth to the mix, Fresno Unified will get about $15 million in additional resources.

Gabriela Morales represents Fresno Unified in a unique way. Last year, she graduated from Roosevelt High School with a 4.0 Grade Point Average, but at one point didn't have a place to live.

"The fact that I didn't have a home, where am I going to go after school? Was I going to eat? It takes you to a place where you don't want to go to school anymore," said Morales.

She credits two attentive teachers at Cambridge Continuation School for helping her enroll in Foster Care and a friend for eventually taking her in, but says many of the district's 2,400 other homeless students aren't as fortunate.

"There are kids all over Fresno that don't have friends that can take them in and they're living in the streets, in the parks, hopping from friend to friend, shelter to shelter," she said.

Under the new Local Control Funding Formula, districts now get funding for homeless students and foster youth. Populations Fresno Unified insists are among the highest in the state.

"Our disadvantaged population is almost 92 percent and those are the latest state estimates," said Deputy Superintendent Ruth Quinto. "It's quite daunting to think about it on one hand, but on the other hand its motivation to come to work and to serve these students."

The district estimates a portion of the $15 million it expects, will go towards providing school supplies, clothing and transportation as well as academic counseling for its neediest students. Tools Gabriela Morales said will go a long way in ensuring their success.

In the meantime, the district was so impressed with what she's had to overcome, it surprised her with another opportunity she never thought possible and made the announcement at a news conference Friday afternoon.

"I would just like to take this opportunity to announce this," said Superintendent Michael Hanson. "She doesn't know quiet yet where she's going to land, but she's also the newest employee of Fresno Unified."

Hanson said he doesn't know just yet where she'll work, but said he'd find a place for her within the district.

As for the money, Fresno Unified said it will get a better idea of just how much funding it will get from the state by January, and can then develop a specific plan for how the money will be used.


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