Keeping a tab on student homelessness

It’s the kind of effort few newspapers have the time, space, or resources to make an investment in pursuing, but it’s an important issue that needs to be put before readers and policymakers.

It’s a multi-story, multimedia look at the heartrending problem of educating homeless students — some 4,000 in Boston alone, nearly 1 in 14 — and the battle they wage in trying to keep up with classmates who go to a real home and warm bed every night. It’s a deep dive into the causes behind the growing problem as well as the financial impact on the tight schools’ budgets.

But the most jarring part of the package is not solely the content, it’s where the stories ran: not, as one would expect, in the Boston Globe but rather the Boston Herald, the shrinking tabloid increasingly being written off as a paper in search of an identity. The homeless story is the type of effort the Herald of 20 to 30 years ago would regularly undertake to show Boston was truly a two-newspaper town, ceding no ground to its better-funded, more-muscled competition.

And given the Herald’s unambiguous lurch to the right in the news hole, it’s a risk to run counter to its readership in offering a serious and quality look at an issue that disproportionately impacts minorities that should trigger debate about responsibility and funding in City Hall and on Beacon Hill.

Written and reported solely by the paper’s education reporter, Kathleen McKiernan, the anchor to the package focuses on two teens whose Dominican family was forced out of Boston because of high rent. The family’s odyssey led them to a friend’s one-bedroom apartment in Lynn followed by a two-night stay in the emergency room of Boston Children’s Hospital (where staff gave the kids “fake” physicals and a bed to allow them one night’s sleep) to a motel in Brighton and finally a shelter in Dorchester.

The family’s nomadic journey is an avatar of the struggles many homeless families face. But the issue gets fuller treatment in some of the accompanying stories. The spiraling housing costs in Boston are the main reason families become homeless, a spike that advocates say even affects middle class families who are being priced out of the market. But while many of those families can afford to move to the suburbs, albeit reluctantly, there’s no such alternative for many of the poorer families.

McKiernan offers some sobering statistics not just for Boston but statewide. In the last school year, state data showed there were 21,226 homeless students, an increase of nearly 9 percent over the year before. Included in that figure was the mind-numbing reality that anywhere from 600 to nearly 1,000 youngsters, according to two different surveys, are living on the streets without parents or guardians, nearly 100 in Boston alone.

The stories also include a look at programs around the city that reach out to help homeless students with shelter, extra schoolwork assistance, and mentors to try to keep them in school.

All of it, of course, comes with a cost. Not only is it a hardship on students to get to and stay in school, wherever they may sleep, but many cities and towns struggle with the burden to transport children to and from schools because of a mandate by the federal government to ensure education for homeless students. In Boston, city officials spent $3.8 million on transportation costs last year.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh makes the case the city is a magnet for homeless families because of the number of centralized services available in the Hub. He says Boston can’t carry the load alone, and the state needs to do more.

“Boston becomes the area that people end up coming to,” Walsh told the Herald. “A lot of families don’t originate here. They come to our city because we have services. Every time a bus pulls into South Station there is a potential for more homeless people.”

It is a vexing problem, it is a troubling story, and it is an important issue as classes are ready to resume. Kudos to the Herald for putting a spotlight on it.

JACK SULLIVAN

BEACON HILL

The Legislature retains control over the issuances of liquor licenses, refusing to relinquish the power to municipalities. (Eagle-Tribune)

Howie Carr praises Gov. Charlie Baker “for once” for vetoing the proposed pilot program to tax vehicle mileage as a potential alternative to the gas tax and offers his own alternative — tax legislators’ per diems every time they propose a new transportation levy. (Boston Herald)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Worcester Sports Center, which features two ice rinks, signs Becker College as its first tenant. (Masslive)

Quincy’s building inspection team is being taxed trying to keep up with the construction boom in the city, which has seen the number of building permits increase by 67 percent over the last eight years. (Patriot Ledger)

CASINOS

The state’s tiny horse racing industry wants to use gambling tax revenue to help build a new racetrack, most likely in Essex County. (Salem News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Milwaukee endures a second night of protests and violence in the wake of the police shooting of a black man during a traffic stop. Police officials say the officer who fired the shot was black and he was responding to the victim pointing a gun at him. (Time)

US Rep. Seth Moulton says Sweden’s lobster science, which is being used to push for a ban on imports of American lobsters, is flawed. (Salem News)

ELECTIONS

A secret ledger in Ukraine shows secret cash payments totaling $12.7 million to Donald Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort from the country’s ousted president and Russian ally. (New York Times)

In a taped interview, Sen. Elizabeth Warren says she’s unfazed by Trump repeatedly calling her “Pocahontas” and says she’ll continue to “punch back” because “that’s the way you got to deal with bullies.” (Keller@Large) Boston Herald columnist Hillary Chabot says Trump is ignoring Warren’s attacks because she was passed over as Hillary Clinton’s VP.

The American Spectator is running a four-part series on “How Trump Can Become One of Our Greatest Presidents.”

A Berkshire Eagle editorial points out that voters during this election are being spared a debate over the Affordable Care Act.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

If you have some spare time, Warren Buffett’s sister Doris is looking for some help to give away his money. (Boston Globe)

A new master plan for the 124-year-old Buttonwood Zoo in New Bedford has triggered a debate over whether we really need to keep captive wild animals in urban cages. (Standard-Times)

A combination of increased costs along with less-productive bogs resulted in a 12 percent drop in Massachusetts’ cranberry harvest this year, keeping the state, once the Number 1 cranberry producer in the world, well behind Wisconsin for the top spot, according to recently released federal data. (The Enterprise)

Apple CEO Tim Cook looked back over his first five years at the helm of the tech giant and said running the company is “sort of a lonely job.” (Washington Post)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

A deposition by a former state health official in a lawsuit from Southcoast Hospitals Group against the DPH claims former Health Secretary John Polanowicz, now a Steward Health Care System executive, changed the rules when he was in office to allow his new company to open a heart center without going through the regulatory process. (Boston Globe)

Facing a $75 million budget shortfall, Baystate Health in Springfield is cutting 300 positions. (Masslive)

During what are normally routine surgeries, five cataract patients lose sight in an eye in a single day in West Springfield. (Boston Globe)

Researchers have discovered a possible link between the tick-borne Powassan virus, which is increasingly showing up on the Cape, and long-term symptoms of Lyme disease. (Cape Cod Times)

TRANSPORTATION

For the first time, the MBTA confirms parking revenue was stolen, and suggests the losses could be very large. (CommonWealth)

The MBTA’s ad revenue rose 32 percent in the last fiscal year to $31 million and the cash-strapped authority thinks it can leverage more money out of beefing up its digital advertising formats. (Boston Globe)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A statewide drought warning is issued, but the Quabbin Reservoir remains in good shape. (Telegram & Gazette)

A new survey finds climate change is a more divisive issue than abortion when it comes to politics. (Associated Press)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The research on police body cameras is mixed; what benefits the cameras do offer is tempered by the high cost. (CommonWealth)

Four American Olympians, including swimmer Ryan Lochte, were robbed at gunpoint by masked men posing as police officers in Rio. (ESPN)