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) SB 1353 Page 2 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 SB 1353 Page 3 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 SB 1353 Page 4 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.