BALTIMORE - The more things change for Tangelia Giddins, the more she tries to keep them the same for her children.
"They don't see my struggles. They just see the positive outcome of it. [And part of that is their education?] Very much so. I believe education is the number one key to anything."
Giddins lost her job as a nursing assistant, couldn't pay her bills; lost her home in West Baltimore.
She and her children are now in transitional housing. She is battling back while keeping her children in the same school with their same routine of classes, teachers and peers.
"When I came to this program I felt as though it was very important for them to stay in the school they were in because they are straight honor roll students, straight a students, perfect attendance and I just feel as though that is really important."
As does the federal government.
Giddins' children are part of a rapidly growing group being transported to their original school despite where their families end up homeless.
It's part of a federal directive called the McKinney-Vento Act; a law passed in the eighties that “removes all barriers for homeless students.”
A key component and the most expensive thing to provide in that act is the transportation of homeless students to their original school despite where they end up.
"It's essential. School stability is essential. We want kids to be healthy socially, psychologically and be able to succeed academically; they need to have that stability. They need that one safe place."
Barbara Duffield is the policy director for the National Association for Education of Homeless Children.
McKinney-Vento she says is good federal policy but while the population of homeless students has exploded in this economy, the federal program has been flat funded through the past five years.
Duffield says nationally there has been a near 40 percent spike in homeless students.
In Maryland that population has now more than doubled in the past six years to more than fourteen thousand students. An increasing need Duffield is fighting in the halls of congress to better fund.
[Do you feel confident you can bump that up before next year?] “No, I'm not confident because we have a very difficult fiscal climate. We have quite frankly other priorities in terms of programs that may be getting increases. So it's enormous, big challenge," said Duffield.
A challenge some federal lawmakers are well aware of.
"We really have to look at the money. The problem is exploding and we need to make sure that we don't lose a generation of children."
Senator Barbara Mikulski is the senior senator on the committee that authorizes McKinney-Vento.
She is in favor of increasing the funding to help transport and keep homeless children in their schools of origin, but says there is what she calls a prickly climate on Capitol Hill making that almost impossible.
"We need to look at how we are funding public education, how to make sure we don't have unfunded federal mandates. That means we have to put money the federal checkbook so that we have it in local school districts, but that is the larger discussion of where is the money going to come from?"
A discussion our school districts are already having.
With just 65 million given out nationally by the feds each year to mandate the transportation and education of this population, Maryland only gets about one million.
[So this problem as it continues to grow is at the very least forcing school districts to stretch the dollar a little bit?] “Oh, in all facets, yes, sure."
Maryland's homeless education coordinator Doctor Bill Cohee cannot put a hard number on it but he estimates the state spends roughly nine times more on homeless transportation than the feds give.
And this year without stimulus money, school districts all over the state are absorbing even more of the mandated increased costs of a growing generation.
"It is just not a winnable battle in the long run. Unless more money from somewhere comes forth to make sure that flat funding is reversed and we begin to funds grantable that do more realistically meet the needs," said Cohee.
Until then it just gets done because the feds say it has to.
A costly program, but studies show is beneficial with increased test scores and graduation rates among the recent homeless students.
Giving children and parents a better footing to face the headwinds of economic bad luck and worse times.
"That's why I fight for this because everyone else believes in them and so do I. I have to," said Giddins.
A growing battle waged on the streets, in classrooms and now atop Capitol Hill.
The federal funding for McKinney-Vento has been stuck at about 65 million through the last five years. According to Senator Mikulski and