Representative John Lewis (D-GA) introduced the House version of the Fostering Success in Education Act (H.R. 5868) earlier this week. The Act is intended to ensure that the educational needs of children in foster care are addressed in a seamless and complete manner. Each “Fostering Success in Education” action is intended to strengthen the educational provisions of the Fostering Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-351).
H.R. 5868 brings state and local education agencies together with child welfare agencies to address the educational needs of children and youth in foster care. It does so by ensuring stable educational placements, including transportation as appropriate, according to each child’s best interest. In the case of school changes, immediate enrollment is required. This is regardless of the status of records, which are required to be maintained and transferred to facilitate immediate enrollment. In addition the bill requires children in care have equal access to all educational services, including pre-K, Head Start, advanced placement, career and technical programs, summer school, special education and extracurricular activities. To accomplish this, the bill requires a new position of state coordinator to lead cross-agency collaboration. In addition, each local education agency should designate a foster care liaison for ensuring appropriate educational supports for each child in care. The bill includes additional provisions to prioritize pre-K enrollment of children in foster care; ensuring full, partial and retrieval credit transfers when children in care change schools; and systems for cross-agency collaboration and dispute resolution. Finally, the House bill includes an additional subtitle for state grants to enable the states to fulfill the act.
The bill is very similar to Senators Al Franken (D-MN) and Patty Murray’s (D-WA) companion bill, which was introduced last Congress. While the Senate companion bill has yet to be reintroduced in the 112th, Franken successfully guided a similar amendment to Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization. The ESEA reauthorization bill now awaits full Senate action.