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Report: States Struggle With ESSA's Requirements for Foster Children

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Advocates for children in foster care had good reason to cheer the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act two years ago. The new law requires schools to break out student achievement data for foster care students so that the public can see how they are doing relative to their peers.

And it calls for students in foster care to be able to stay in their "school of origin" (a term the law did not define) even if it's no longer their neighborhood school. The state must work with school districts and local child welfare agencies to provide transportation. The transportation was supposed to be in place one year after the passage of ESSA.

So how are state agencies doing with that transportation requirement? The Chronicle of Social Change explored that question and found a mixed picture.

The national news site, which covers child welfare, surveyed all 50 states, beginning in November of last year. Forty-four responded to its request. Of those, 33 said they were working with local school districts to comply with the law.

But it's less clear to the Chronicle that other states have implemented ESSA's requirements, including Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Responses from Alaska, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, and New York suggest that school districts have tried to comply with the law, but the state agencies could not "definitively confirm" that they had.

The Chronicle says that 162,000 foster children, about 37 percent of those in foster care nationally, are living in states where compliance is in question.

"Our findings suggest that thousands of foster youth are being denied their educational rights," said Daniel Heimpel, the publisher of The Chronicle. "My question is why hasn't the federal Department of Education or Congress stepped up to make sure that the Every Student Succeeds Act's foster care provisions are being enforced? It makes one wonder about the federal government's power or willingness to serve extremely vulnerable children."

When ESSA passed, some advocates for school districts worried that they would not have the resources to meet the mandate. And they noted that the language in ESSA is murky as to whether school districts or local health departments were ultimately on the hook for covering transportation costs. More here


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