Newsmakers, April 16, 2015

Air Date:
Heard On Newsmakers

Homeless Children In Coulee Region Schools ; Money Smart Week 2015-La Crosse

Featured in this Show

  • Homeless Children In Coulee Region Schools

    A new report says all 19 school districts in a four county area of southwestern Wisconsin have provided an education to at least one homeless child over a recent three year period.

    The report was done by Couleecap, a non-profit agency that assists low income residents with a variety of needs such as housing and transportation in Crawford, La Crosse, Monroe and Vernon Counties.

    The La Crosse School District led the way with a three year average of 161 homeless students, followed by Tomah with 127 homeless students and Sparta with 68, but even smaller and more rural schools like De Soto (three year average of 7) and Seneca (4) provided an education to a child considered homeless.

    “Every school district is dealing with homeless youth in our area,” according to Couleecap Executive Director Grace Jones. “If you think that even one homeless child is too many, these numbers are pretty startling. A lot of people don’t realize that there are actually many homeless youth in our area, because we live in such a wonderful area.”

    Public schools are required by law to provide transportation to homeless students, and provide it for the entire school year, if the child started the school year in a given district. In addition to an education, the La Crosse School District also makes sure the students are eating free breakfast and lunch, have access to school supplies and clothing and refer them for access to other community resources according to homeless liaison Regina Siegel. There is no source of government funding for homeless students, even for the transportation requirement. Siegel says the school district has to rely on occasional grants, donations and volunteer help to respond to homeless student needs.

    She believes the La Crosse School District serves many more homeless students than are estimated.

    “Over half of our homeless students are at the elementary level,” said Siegel, who believes younger students are more verbal about their lives, and teachers have an easier time identifying elementary students who may qualify as being homeless. “When kids get to the middle school and high school level, I don’t think they’re telling us as much. I know for a fact we have children who are couch-surfing, who get kicked out of homes, or are runaways, or their parents have left.”

    Jones sights recent statistics from the Institute for Children and Poverty which suggest homeless children are nine times more likely than non-homeless children to have to repeat a grade, four times more likely to drop out of school altogether and three times more likely to be placed in a special education program than their peers.

    The Couleecap report also quotes some state rankings for Wisconsin that were done by the organization America’s Youngest Outcasts. They show how susceptible the state is becoming when it comes to dealing with the issue of child homelessness. While Wisconsin ranks 8th in the nation in the risk for child homelessness, the state is 37th in the nation for state policy and planning efforts to tackle the problem.

  • Money Smart Week 2015-La Crosse

    From help for women in negotiating a higher salary to the basics of estate planning or advice for teenagers on budgeting, Money Smart Week-La Crosse will offer a little something for everyone. Area financial institutions and higher education have teamed up for a week-long series of forums that focus on personal finance issues. (April 18-25, 2015)

    Money Smart Week has been held the last several years in the La Crosse area. Similar weeks are planned throughout Wisconsin and other parts of the United States. Money Smart Week was designed by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in 2002 as a public awareness campaign to help people better manage their personal finances

Episode Credits

  • John Gaddo Host
  • John Davis Producer
  • Mary Meehan-Strub Interviewer
  • Grace Jones Guest
  • Regina Siegel Guest
  • Jackie Urban Guest
  • Amanda Gaspar Guest