The History of the McKinney Act
The Homeless Persons' Survival Act was introduced in both houses of Congress in
1986. This act contained emergency relief measures, preventive measures, and longterm solutions to homelessness. Only small pieces of this proposal, however, were
enacted into law. The Homeless Eligibility Clarification Act of 1986 removed
permanent address requirements and other barriers to existing programs such as
Supplemental Security Income, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, Veterans
Benefits, Food Stamps, and Medicaid. Also in 1986, the Homeless Housing Act was
adopted. This legislation created the Emergency Shelter Grant program and
transitional housing demonstration program; both programs were administered by
the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
In late 1986, legislation containing Title I of the Homeless Persons' Survival Act -emergency relief provisions for shelter, food, mobile health care, and transitional
housing, was introduced as the Urgent Relief for the Homeless Act. After an
intensive advocacy campaign, the legislation was passed in 1987. After the death of
its chief Republican sponsor, Representative Stewart B. McKinney of Connecticut,
the act was renamed the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act (P.L. 10077). President Ronald Reagan signed it into law on July 22, 1987.
At that time, the homeless population was rapidly increasing, and there were early
indications that the demographics were changing with women and children
representing a growing portion of the population. Recognizing the expanding
diversity of the homeless population, Congress included provisions in the Act
requiring states to ensure that all homeless children have the same right to a free
and appropriate public education as non-homeless children. Congress adopted
additional provisions requiring states to review and undertake steps to revise
residency requirements for school attendance to ensure that homeless children did
not experience delays with school enrollment.
To help states meet the new requirements, Congress appropriated funds so that
states could establish or designate an office of coordinator for the education of
homeless children and youth. In addition to other responsibilities, the state
coordinator's office was given authority to gather data on homeless children in the
state and develop a state plan providing for their education. These provisions
sought to give states the ability to gain a better understanding of the challenges
facing homeless students and make states responsible for ensuring homeless
children were not denied access to a free and appropriate public education.
In 1990, Congress took another major step toward improving the educational
opportunities for the nation's homeless children and youth. Provided with the new
information and data collected by state coordinators that revealed homeless
children encountered significant obstacles in obtaining free and appropriate
educational services, Congress amended the McKinney Act (P.L. 101-645) and
expressed an intolerance of any barrier that prohibited the enrollment of homeless
children and youth. Furthermore, Congress acknowledged that the true challenge
was not simply to enroll homeless children, but to promote their academic success
in public school.
Specifically, the McKinney amendments required state homeless education
coordinators to look beyond residency issues toward other issues that were keeping
homeless children and youth out of school. Congressional policy expanded the
state's responsibility to eliminate the barriers to the education of homeless children
and youth. As a result, the states were required to review and revise ALL policies,
practices, laws, and regulations that might act as a barrier to the enrollment,
attendance, or academic success of homeless children and youth. States were
additionally responsible for assuming a leadership role in ensuring that local
education agencies review and revise policies and procedures that might similarly
impede the access of homeless children and youth to a free and appropriate public
With Congressional recognition of the need to promote the academic success of
homeless students came the authorization provision of direct educational services.
Prior to passage of the 1990 amendments, states were prohibited from using
McKinney funds to provide direct educational services. Since 1990, however, states
have been authorized, within certain limits to award grants to local education
agencies (LEAs) for an array of educational and support services in response to the
needs of homeless students. Today, schools that apply for, and receive, McKinney
funds may use them to provide before school and after school programs, tutoring
programs, referrals for medical and mental health services, pre-school programs,
parent education, counseling, social work services, transportation services, and
other services that may not otherwise have been provided by the public school
program. In furtherance of this policy, Congress increased appropriations
significantly from 1987 levels.
Congress amended the McKinney Act again in 1994 as part of its reauthorization of
the Improving America's Schools Act (P.L. 103-382). In this legislation, Congress
demonstrated continued support for its previous policies and worked to increase
legal protections of homeless children and youth to ensure that they had greater
access to the appropriate education services provided under federal, state, and local
law. Under the new amendments, states are authorized to extend the program
services funded by McKinney to preschool children and on sectarian property,
where it is constitutionally permissible to do so. Additionally, LEAs receiving
McKinney funds were provided greater flexibility in developing programs to meet
the educational, social, and health needs of homeless children and youth by
removing categorical spending limits within the law. Congress also added
protections requiring states to ensure that school districts abide by a parent's or
guardian's request to enroll a homeless child in a particular school to the extent that
such a request is feasible. Congress also strengthened provisions in the Act
requiring interagency coordination and collaboration between state and local
education agencies and other agencies and organizations that provide services to
homeless people.
In 2001, Congress again reauthorized the McKinney Education of Homeless Children
and Youth Program as the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance
Improvements Act in the No Child Left Behind Act (P. L. 107-110), signed by
President George W. Bush on January 8, 2002. According to the National Coalition
for the Homeless (2001), Congress was influenced by statistics that over one million
children and youth were likely to experience homelessness in a given year and
extreme poverty, coupled with high mobility and loss of housing, placed these
children at great risk for educational challenges. These data resulted in additional
supports being incorporated into the law. Among the changes for the Office of State
Coordinator is the requirement to strengthen state support to all school divisions by
coordinating with local liaisons to ensure accountability, greater flexibility to use
McKinney-Vento funds, and increases in funding. The reauthorization strengthens
the policy that homeless students should be integrated with their housed peers by
explicitly prohibiting the segregation of homeless students through the creation of
new separate schools or separate programs within schools and by requiring the
Office of State Coordinator to provide technical assistance to promptly integrate
homeless children and youth attending separate schools and programs into schools
and programs serving non-homeless students. Clarification of who is considered
homeless is addressed by describing specific situations that qualify students as
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act was reauthorized by Congress as
Title X, Part C of the No Child Left Behind Act, H.R. 1 (Public Law 107-110) and
became effective July 1, 2002. The purpose of the law is to close the achievement
gap with accountability, flexibility, and choice so that no child is left behind.

The History of the McKinney Act - Anoka