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New Commission Will Help Determine Schooling Needs Of Homeless Children

The phrase "back to school" could mean a whole lot more for many in Allegheny County. A new law signed by Governor Corbett Thursday will create a commission under the State Department of Education to study the demographics and school needs of homeless children.

The group will have 18 months to conduct its study and make recommendations on how to best educate children who are currently living in the streets. Senator Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny County), the sponsor of Senate Bill 157, said it is better to address the issue now rather than later.

"As we know, for every child education is our future and it's the same for these young homeless children, but we need to focus on them and identity them and zone in on what they need to get a quality education for their future," Fontana said.

Fontana argued if these children do not receive an education, they will most likely not be able to find jobs, which will prove costly to taxpayers and society as a whole down the road.

"Just in Allegheny County, there's over 1,700. If that's just in Allegheny County, I'm sure you can estimate thousands more just in our state," Fontana said.

The Homeless Children's Education Fund, an advocacy group in Allegheny County, reported many homeless children suffer from developmental problems due to their transient lifestyle, which can interrupt their schooling.

Fontana said it is important to not only enroll children in schools, but keep them in school as well. "Their schooling needs are what's the most important and we're hoping that the task force and the commission comes up with ways, shows us ways that we can make sure these children stay in school and get a quality education," Fontana said.

The commission is to be in place for the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year.