November 7, 2019
The Governor of California
President pro Tempore of the Senate
Speaker of the Assembly
Sacramento, California 95814
Dear Governor and Legislative Leaders:
As directed by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, my office conducted an audit of local educational agencies (LEAs) and the California Department of Education (Education). Our assessment focused on these entities’ efforts to identify and support youth experiencing homelessness, and the following report details the audit's findings and conclusions. We determined that the LEAs we reviewed could do more to identify and support these youth, and that Education has provided inadequate oversight of the State’s homeless education program.
Some LEAs have underidentified youth experiencing homelessness. The six LEAs we reviewed did not always employ sufficient or effective methods to identify these youth. Although industry experts, best practices, and most of the LEAs we reviewed recognize that using an annual housing questionnaire is a primary method to identify these youth, not all of the LEAs use such a questionnaire. Further, none of the LEAs we reviewed sufficiently trained staff who provide services to youth experiencing homelessness about the legal requirements of the federal McKinney‑Vento Education Assistance Improvement Act or the signs of homelessness. Moreover, even though federal and state laws require LEAs to disseminate in certain public places, information related to their homeless education programs, only one of the LEAs we reviewed had done so. As a result, the six LEAs we reviewed may not identify and provide youth who experience homelessness with the services they need for successful performance outcomes.
We believe these issues are in part a result of Education’s inadequate oversight of the State’s homeless education program. Specifically, Education monitors less than 1 percent of the nearly 2,300 LEAs in the State each academic year. Additionally, Education does not effectively use data it collects to identify and provide specific guidance to LEAs that do not effectively identify youth experiencing homelessness. Further, Education has not developed training modules for all LEA staff that it committed to develop in its state plan. Although Education attributed these inadequacies largely to a lack of resources, it has not conducted a staffing analysis to identify the additional resources it needs to fulfill its responsibilities.
ELAINE M. HOWLE, CPA
California State Auditor