BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    






                          SENATE COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION
                               Gloria Romero, Chair
                            2009-2010 Regular Session
                                         

          BILL NO:       SB 1353
          AUTHOR:        Wright
          AMENDED:       March 22, 2010
          FISCAL COMM:   Yes            HEARING DATE:  March 24, 2010
          URGENCY:       No             CONSULTANT:Lynn Lorber

           NOTE  :  This bill has been referred to the Committees on  
          Education and Human Services.  A "do pass" motion should  
          include referral to the Committee on Human Services.

           SUBJECT  :   Foster youth: education stability.

           KEY POLICY ISSUES  

          Should consideration of the proximity of the child's school  
          be considered a non-exclusive indicator of the best interests  
          of the child with respect to educational stability?

          Should the rights of foster youth delineated in current law  
          be expanded to include the right to minimal disruptions in  
          school attendance and educational stability?

           SUMMARY:   

          This bill provides that consideration of the proximity to the  
          school in which the child is enrolled at the time of  
          placement is a non-exclusive indicator of the best interests  
          of the child with respect to educational stability.

           BACKGROUND  

          AB 490 (Steinberg, Ch. 862, 2003) established numerous  
          education protections for foster youth, including the  
          requirements that:  

          1)   All educational and school placement decisions ensure  
               that pupils are placed in the least restrictive  
               educational programs, and that the pupil has access to  
               all educational and extra-curricular and enrichment  
               activities that are available to all pupils.  (Education  
               Code  48853)




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          2)   Considerations of a foster child's educational  
               stability, special needs, and best interests be taken  
               into account when deciding on placement into the most  
               appropriate home.  (Welfare & Institutions Code   
               16501.1)

          3)   Local education agencies allow a foster child to  
               continue his or her education in the school of origin  
               for the duration of the academic school year.  (EC   
               48853.5)

          Current law requires:

          1)   The case plan for each foster child to include a summary  
               of the health and education information or records of  
               the child.  The health and education summary must  
               include assurances that the child's placement in foster  
               care takes into account proximity to the school in which  
               the child is enrolled at the time of placement.  (WIC   
               16010)

          2)   The decision regarding choice of placement, if  
               out-of-home placement is used to attain case plan goals,  
               to be based upon selection of a safe setting that is the  
               least restrictive or most familylike and the most  
               appropriate setting that is available and in close  
               proximity to the parent's home, proximity to the child's  
               school, or both.  (WIC  16501.1)

           ANALYSIS  

           This bill  establishes that proximity to the child's school is  
          one indicator of the best interests of the child.   
          Specifically, this bill:

          1)   Provides that consideration of the proximity to the  
               school in which the child is enrolled at the time of  
               placement is a non-exclusive indicator of the best  
               interests of the child with respect to educational  
               stability:

               a)        As part of the decision regarding choice of  
                    residential placement of foster youth.
               b)        For inclusion in the case plan for foster  
                    youth.

          2)   Expands the statutory right of foster youth to attend  



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               school and participate in extracurricular activities to  
               include the right to have minimal disruptions to school  
               attendance and educational stability caused by transfers  
               from the school of origin during the academic year,  
               semester, or term of instruction.

          3)   Adds to existing legislative intent relative to working  
               to maintain stable school placement for foster youth the  
               definition of the "best interests of the child" to  
               include, but not be limited to, minimal disruptions to  
               school attendance and educational stability caused by  
               transfers outside of the school of origin during the  
               academic year, semester, or term of instruction.

           STAFF COMMENTS  

           1)   Need for the bill  :  According to the author, "Foster  
               youth lose an average of four to six months of  
               educational progress each time they change schools.   
               One-third of foster children have changed schools at  
               least five times.  In Compton Unified School District,  
               almost half of its 1,265 students in foster care change  
               schools each year.  Of these transfers, 85% result in a  
               student 
               entering a new school after the first day of class.  In  
               a national study of youth who had been in foster care,  
               those who had one fewer placement change per year were  
               almost twice as likely to graduate from high school."

           2)   Same school trumps other factors  ?  The safety of the  
               foster child is the primary consideration when  
               determining residential placement.  Consideration of the  
               proximity to a foster child's school of enrollment is  
               currently required as part of placement decisions.  This  
               bill establishes that proximity to the child's school is  
               one indicator of the best interests of the child with  
               respect to education stability.  This bill will not  
               result in placement decisions being solely based on  
               school enrollment, nor will it mean that foster youth  
               will remain in schools that are not in their best  
               interests simply because the youth currently attend that  
               school.

           3)   Prior and related legislation  .  

                           AB 1933 (Brownley) requires local education  
                    agencies to allow a foster child to remain in his  



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                    or her school of origin for the duration of the  
                    jurisdiction of the court.  AB 1933 is awaiting  
                    action in the Assembly Education Committee.

                           AB 1067 (Brownley) would have required  
                    local education agencies to provide the  
                    transportation necessary to allow foster children  
                    to remain in the school in which they were enrolled  
                    at the time of foster care placement.  AB 1067 was  
                    held on the Assembly Appropriations Committee's  
                    suspense file.

           SUPPORT
           
          Compton Unified School District

           OPPOSITION
           
          None received.