- Beginning this fall, Colorado school districts may get some help covering the costs of transporting children in foster care to their “school of origin,” a requirement under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
- Last week, the Colorado State Legislature took another step toward passing the Improving Educational Stability For Foster Youth bill, which would set aside $2.9 million, in mostly federal funds, for an Educational Stability Grant Program, which would help cover transportation expenses. In 2019-20, the amount would increase to almost $3.9 million. A Senate committee referred the bill to an appropriations committee.
- The bill would also create a permanent foster care education coordinator in the state education department, beginning with the 2019-20 school year and would allow schools to waive some course requirements or use competency-based measures in order to help students in foster care earn their high school diplomas.
States and school districts are increasing efforts to address the specific educational needs of children in foster care, in part because of the provision within ESSA that states report achievement data and graduation rates for these students. The law also requires school districts and child welfare agencies to cooperate in ensuring that children in foster care experience as little disruption as possible. Frequent school changes are one factor in why these students are more likely to fall behind in school, are often chronically absent and less likely to graduate from high school.
It’s clear, however, that schools and districts, their child welfare counterparts and foster families need to sort out specific details regarding issues such as transportation to students’ home schools. In Rhode Island, for example, trained social workers were spending part of their work days driving students in foster care to school because the state had not clearly articulated who was responsible for that part of the law.
Several states have created documents which outline issues to consider when developing a foster care transportation plan, and if more states direct funds to cover any additional transportation costs, as Colorado is considering, that’s also likely to help.