HARRISBURG, June 18, 2010 — State Sen. Wayne D. Fontana today introduced legislation to form a task force that would study the best possible ways to educate homeless children.

“One of the misconceptions about homelessness has always been that it only impacts adults, but there are also children who are without a place to stay,” Fontana said. “In our current economy, those numbers are only growing, with an estimated 875 children experiencing homelessness in Allegheny County alone. Among other hardships, these kids can also be missing out on an opportunity to go to school, learn and improve their lot in life.”

Fontana (D-Allegheny) said the bill establishes a 19-member task force to include the secretaries of the Department of Education, Public Health and Welfare, the chair of the PA Housing Finance Agency, and officials from school districts, social service agencies and organizations that help homeless families. The task force would examine educational needs and status of homeless children to develop a statewide proposal that would establish a strong statewide educational foundation for homeless children.

Senate Bill 1414 would charge the task force with examining and assessing the landscape of the homeless-child population, including demographics and impediments to educational success. It would also hash out existing jurisdictional issues. The task force would be required to submit its report to the governor and General Assembly within a year of its initial meeting.

The Brookline lawmaker hopes to work with the Senate Education Committee to hold hearings to strengthen his proposal and raise awareness about homelessness and its impact on children.

“We have an obligation and responsibility to see to it that homeless children have access to all available educational resources,” Fontana said.

“These kids and their families have already been through so much. We cannot allow their education to be another thing that is lost to them.”