The ABA urged Senate and House committee leaders this month to make sure that the final version of legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act includes provisions in the Senate-passed bill to ensure that educational needs are met for students in foster care and those who are homeless.
Both House and Senate have passed versions of the reauthorization legislation, which would overhaul the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act to give states more flexibility over education programs. House and Senate conferees began meeting Nov. 18 to resolve the differences between the bills − S. 1177, which passed by an 81-17 Senate vote on Aug. 17, and H.R. 5, which passed the House by a 218-213 vote on July 8. The conference report is expected to be released shortly.
In a Nov. 5 letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the House Education and the Workforce Committee, ABA Governmental Affairs Director Thomas M. Susman expressed ABA support for the following provisions in S. 1177:
• ensuring students can remain in their same school when they enter foster care and change foster care placements, unless it is not in their best interest;
• enrolling students in foster care immediately in a new school when a school change is necessary without the typically required records;
• facilitating the prompt transfer of records when a child in foster care enters a new school;
• requiring school districts and child welfare agencies to have reciprocal points of contact for students in foster care;
• requiring local education and child welfare agencies to collaborate to develop and implement a plan for transportation when needed to keep students in foster care in their school of origin; and
• improving the collection of data, particularly high school graduation rates, on the success of children in foster care to keep abreast of their progress.
These provisions, he said, “carefully prevent overburdening of school systems” serving both homeless children and those in foster care, adding that states that have adopted provisions similar to those in S. 1177 have seen students in foster care benefit substantially from school stability and other protections.
The Senate bill also requires the secretaries of Education and Health and Human Services to produce a report on the progress made and barriers faced in implementing the provisions for children in foster care.