A record number of homeless children and teens were enrolled in public school last year, according to data released Monday by the federal government.
Elementary and secondary schools reported that 1.3 million students were homeless during the 2012-2013 year, an 8 percent jump from the prior year.
Most of those students — 75 percent — were living doubled up in the home of a friend or a relative, according to the government. Sixteen percent were living in homeless shelters, 6 percent in hotels or motels, and 3 percent had no shelter.
For the first time as part of this survey, the U.S. Department of Education required schools to denote whether homeless students were living with a parent or on their own. Schools reported that 75,940 homeless students were living on their own.
Advocates for the homeless say the official data underestimate the scope of the problem because they do not include homeless infants, toddlers and youngsters not enrolled in preschool and may also miss homeless children and teens who were not identified by school officials.
“The new data means that a record number of kids in our schools and communities are spending restless nights in bed-bug infested motels and falling more behind in school by the day because they’re too tired and hungry to concentrate,” said Bruce Lesley, President of the First Focus Campaign for Children.
The data collected by the U.S. Department of Education are available on the Web site of the National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE).