Homelessness: 2nd annual media blitz

A year ago, more than 30 Seattle media outlets joined a coordinated media response to the region’s homelessness crisis.  Despite sincere and sometimes successful efforts by city and county governments, local businesses and philanthropies, and community-based organizations, homelessness in King County still qualifies as a crisis.

In January, the one-night count of sheltered plus unsheltered homeless in King County was 11,643, generating the local headline, “A city the size of Woodinville is sleeping in our streets.”  But the annual count used a new method in 2017, so that number can’t validly be compared to previous results.

We have another source of data, though. School districts in Washington are required to “track their homeless students and report that data annually to OSPI” (Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction), which in turn reports to the state legislature.  Communities Count has compiled these data for King County school districts going back to the 2007-2008 school year.  By 2015-2016, student homelessness statewide had ballooned to 39,671 – a 52% increase in just 5 years. Over the same period, student homelessness in King County almost doubled — from 4,423 in 2010-11 to 8,411 in 2015-2016 (see chart). Of the 19 school districts in King County, the number of homeless students declined in only 2 (see school district trends).  Washington schools use the U.S. Department of Education’s definition of student homelessness, explained in detail here.

Options for monitoring national and local media coverage of homelessness on June 28th include a national conversation curated by CityLab, Crosscut’s social media pages (Facebook and Twitter), and hashtag #500kHomeless.


National graduation rate reaches all-time high

For the first time ever, more than 8 in 10 high school students in the United States graduated on time in 2012, according to the widely cited 2014 Building a GradNation report. These improvements occurred even as graduation standards were raised. What about students in King County? For that same year, Communities Count reported on-time graduation rates in King County ranging from 59.8% (Tukwila) to 92.9% (Mercer Island), with 12 districts performing at or above the national average. Among King County students with limited English proficiency, only 53% graduated on time (compared to 79% of all students). This 26-point gap was exceeded by only 11 states. King County also had a larger-than-average disparity in graduation rates of Black and white students, with only 65% of Black students graduating on time, compared to 85% of white students. Only 10 states showed larger Black/white differences.