EDUCATION LAW CENTER – PA
Project Coordinator, Homeless Education Advocacy Program
Project Goal: The project goal for the Fellow is to coordinate a series of legal clinics and advocacy trainings to be provided in shelters across Philadelphia in order to: (1) expand ELC’s capacity to provide direct legal representation and advocacy to children experiencing homelessness; (2) facilitate ELC’s efforts to empower parents and shelter providers to become effective education advocates; and (3) identify barriers to school success for children living in shelters to inform ELC’s advocacy efforts on behalf of children experiencing homelessness.
ELC’s mission is to ensure equal access to quality public schools for all students in Pennsylvania. We pursue this mission by advocating on behalf of the most at risk students — children living in poverty, children of color, children in the foster care system, children with disabilities, English Language Learners, and those experiencing homelessness. ELC employs a broad range of strategies to accomplish this mission including direct legal representation, impact litigation, educating parents and students about their legal rights, supporting community-based groups, and legislative, regulatory, and policy advocacy. For example, we train DHS social workers on the rights of students to receive an education, we operate an intake line to provide assistance to families who are having trouble accessing education, and we represent students in court. We also write parent-friendly publications on all aspects of public education law, and we work in coalition with other advocacy organizations to promote fair funding in Pennsylvania schools. Some of ELC’s prior cases and advocacy have included: ensuring the fair treatment and equal access to schools for children in foster care and those experiencing homelessness; challenging unfair and discriminatory school discipline policies; advocating on behalf of children with disabilities to ensure their right to free, appropriate, public education in the least restrictive environment; advocating for adequate and equitable school funding; and expanding access to educational opportunities for English language learners.
Address 1315 Walnut Street, 4th Fl.
Total number of Agency Staff Members 15 staff (including Fellow)
Agency Budget $1,592,200
The fellow’s duties and responsibilities:
The selected Fellow will have the following duties and responsibilities:
(1) contact shelter providers to arrange for legal clinics and advocacy trainings and assist with logistics of registration and set-up at shelters;
(2) collect a list of issues identified by parents and providers as barriers to educational success and maintain a list of contact information regarding parents and providers that need further follow-up after these sessions;
(3) add contact and narrative information to ELC’s intake system for follow-up by attorneys;
(4) assist in the development of fact sheets for parents and shelter staff on the educational rights of students;
(5) assist in development of a survey and collection of data to assess the impact of the project; and
(6) write about this project to inform ELC partners, clients, and donors about this critical new work.
Skills/qualifications a fellow should have to succeed in the position:
The Fellow should possess the following qualifications and skills:
• Demonstrated ability to handle a project and to complete assigned tasks in a timely manner
• Excellent writing, communication, presentation, and organizational skills
• Ability to articulate the organization’s mission and project objectives
• Interest in learning about the legal rights of students
• Ability to assist in developing web-based materials and presentations
• Excellent interpersonal skills with the ability to collaborate and work effectively with diverse staff as well as shelter providers and parents
• Highly organized, detail-oriented, collaborative, and articulate
• Self-starter, motivated, and able to take initiative
Specific community need that the Philly Fellow will address:
Students experiencing homelessness are at greater risk of dropping out of school and continuing the cycle of poverty and homelessness. According to a recent report of People’s Emergency Center, at least one out of every twenty high school students enrolled in the School District of Philadelphia has experienced homelessness or been kicked out or run-away from home. Many of these students live in or connect with one of the 35 shelters across the city that serve children and youth. In the 2012-13 school year, Pennsylvania reported a 15 percent rise in homelessness among public school students, almost double the national rate, increasing from 18,231 to 19,459 children. Over four thousand of those students attended Philadelphia schools and many more live in the Philadelphia area. Students who experience homelessness are more likely to repeat a grade, score lower on standardized tests and are less likely to graduate from high school. Approximately 25 percent of Pennsylvania students experiencing homelessness are identified as having a disability.
Sources: Meeting the Needs of Pennsylvania’s Homeless Children and Youth available at http://www.elc-pa.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/HomelessTaskForceReport_1_31_14.pdf; People’s Emergency Center’s Report on Youth Homelessness in Philadelphia, available at http://www.housingalliancepa.org/node/1164 and “One Step Away: Student Homelessness on the Rise, available at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/one_step_away/One-Step-Away-Student-homelessness-on-the-rise.html.
How the agency addresses this need, and how the new capacity created by this fellow will help alleviate the problem:
By coordinating the project, the Fellow will enable ELC attorneys to provide legal clinics and advocacy trainings for parents and shelter providers in Philadelphia. Accordingly, the Fellow will help ELC build a new capacity to improve education outcomes — and life outcomes — for an exceptionally vulnerable cohort of students living in deep poverty. The most vulnerable low-income Philadelphians—those who cannot afford their own housing—will benefit directly from this project. The trainings will empower both parents and shelter providers to serve as effective education advocates for children, thereby improving educational outcomes for students in the future. Through the legal clinics and trainings that the Philly Fellow coordinates, ELC will connect to families in need of direct legal representation and advocacy. As a result, ELC will provide needed services to a student cohort that is often invisible in schools and is highly mobile and therefore often fails to access ELC’s services. The project will enable ELC to empower families to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness by ensuring that children living in shelters have access to appropriate educational services, including early intervention and early childhood programs, school stability, access to special education services, English as a Second Language programs, and representation in school discipline proceedings. The Fellow will also connect us to homeless shelter providers in Philadelphia to create new opportunities for future families to access ELC’s services. ELC’s experiences will, in turn, inform ELC’s policy advocacy which will impact many more children.
The organization’s experience operating anti-poverty programming of this nature:
Over its 40-year history, ELC has undertaken similar projects to serve the targeted needs of specific at-risk student populations. For example, ELC has operated legal clinics for Latino parents and advocates regarding special education issues. ELC has also provided trainings for foster parents and child welfare providers regarding the educational rights of children in foster care. These projects have been very effective in meeting the needs of individual students and have also resulted in both direct legal representation and advocacy, while simultaneously building the capacity of providers and advocates to meet the needs of vulnerable students. In addition, these projects have informed ELC’s policy advocacy and triggered systemic reforms such as the adoption of new Juvenile Court Rules that require judges to address the educational needs of children in the dependency system. In all of these cases, ELC’s core constituency has been children of poverty who have significantly benefited from ELC’s representation and advocacy.
Fellow orientation plan:
The Fellow will receive multiple trainings from several ELC staff members regarding ELC’s work, the educational rights of students, and how the office operates. The Fellow’s supervisor will provide an orientation regarding duties and responsibilities relating to the project and will clearly outline expectations. The Fellow will also receive written materials relating to the rights of students experiencing homelessness as well as information regarding the needs of this population of students. The Fellow will participate in staff meetings at ELC’s office and meet with other stakeholders and shelter staff to learn more about the project and the work of ELC.
Name and title of the fellow’s immediate supervisor:
Maura McInerney, Esq., Senior Staff Attorney
Plans for supervision of the fellow:
Maura McInerney, a Senior Staff Attorney at ELC will meet with the Fellow at least twice a week (Mondays & Fridays) for a formal workplan check-in regarding the Fellow’s assignments and progress for the week. Maura will also oversee the development of a workplan for the year as well as the development of all work products and assignments. She or another staff attorney will accompany the Fellow to shelters for all trainings and legal clinics. The Fellow will not be involved in direct service.
Will fellow be working at the same address listed above?
Will the fellow have their own…
Office? Fellow will have their own Desk? Fellow will have their own Computer? Fellow will have their own
The approximate percentage of time the fellow will work…
As a team member in a group setting 60%
As a team leader in a group setting 10%
Will the fellow be expected to travel as part of the position? Yes
If so, how often and where? Fellow will travel to shelters within Philadelphia with a supervisor from ELC. We expect travel-related meetings, trainings, and other sessions to take up 10% of the fellow’s time.
Will the fellow need the following to carry out the position…
A driver’s license? No
Their own car? No