Lawmakers got an eye-opening look at an elementary school Tuesday that caters to homeless children by providing everything from shoes to swim lessons.
“It's impossible to not be moved by what you see,” said Rep. Joe Dorman, who is backing a bill to bring state funding to the Oklahoma City school, called Positive Tomorrows. “They truly are changing lives for the better for kids who would have no hope otherwise.”
About 41 kids attend the private school, many of whom live in shelters or hotels or are staying with relatives or friends.
Some have been subjected to violence or addiction. Poverty and uncertainty are constant companions.
A student profiled in a video played for legislators said she had to sleep in a car.
Another student said she didn't know where she lived.
“Being homeless, they encounter things that are difficult for people like us to understand,” said Susan Agel, the school's president and principal. “Children who grow up in deep poverty are always living in chaos. They're living in a state of constant stress.”
Agel was joined at the Capitol by administrators and board members at the request of Dorman. The 24-year-old school, which also provides counseling and educational assistance to parents, lost federal funding because its enrollment is limited solely to homeless children.
“We need a bigger building,” Agel said. “We turn children away because we can't serve them in our current building.”
Positive Tomorrows is an accredited elementary school that relies on about $1 million private funding annually to stay afloat.