BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    




                                                                  SB 1353
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          Date of Hearing:   June 30, 2010

                           ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION
                                Julia Brownley, Chair
                    SB 1353 (Wright) - As Amended:  June 21, 2010
          
          [This bill was double referred and heard by the Assembly Human  
          Services Committee as it relates to the issues under its  
          jurisdiction.]
          
           SENATE VOTE  :   34-0
           
          SUBJECT  :   Education: foster youth

           SUMMARY  :  Requires consideration be given to specified factors  
          in making educational and school placement decisions for  
          children and youth in foster care.  Specifically,  this bill  :    

          1)Requires, in making educational and school placement decisions  
            for children and youth in foster care, consideration be given  
            to, among other factors: 

             a)   Educational stability by allowing the child to remain in  
               the school of origin by avoiding school transfers that  
               occur outside of the normal matriculation schedule of the  
               child's school of origin, unless the transfer provides  
               educational benefits to the child; and, 

             b)   The opportunity to be educated in the least restrictive  
               educational setting necessary to achieve academic progress.

          2)Expands the statutory right of foster youth to attend school  
            and participate in extracurricular activities to include the  
            right to have minimal disruptions to school attendance and  
            educational stability caused by transfers.

          3)Requires the health and education information kept as part of  
            a child's case plan to additionally include the number of  
            school transfers the child has experienced and the child's  
            educational progress.

          4)Encourages the State Department of Social Services (DSS) and  
            the California Department of Education (CDE) to develop  
            indicators of educational stability and include these as  
            considerations for the selection of an out-of-home placement.









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          5)Provides that the selection of the most appropriate home that  
            will meet the child's best interest shall in addition to other  
            requirements, promote educational stability by taking into  
            consideration proximity to the school of origin and school  
            attendance area, the number of transfers the child has  
            previously experienced, and the child's matriculation  
            schedule, in addition to other indicators of educational  
            stability developed by DSS and the CDE.

          6)Specifies that if a school transfer is deemed necessary in  
            accordance with the law, the decision regarding the placement  
            shall consider whether the placement does both of the  
            following:

             a)   Promotes educational stability by its location in or  
               near the child's school of origin or school attendance  
               area; and, 

             b)   Provides an opportunity to avoid school transfers or at  
               a minimum, delays any necessary school transfer to the  
               summer or normal matriculation schedule.   

          7)Makes findings and declarations relative to the negative  
            effects of school transfers experienced by children in foster  
            care when there are changes in residential placements,  
            expresses the importance of providing educational stability  
            and minimizing school transfers.  

           EXISTING LAW  :

          1)Requires, in all instances, educational and school placement  
            decisions for pupils in foster care to be based on the best  
            interests of the child.

          2)Requires that case plans for children in out-of-home  
            placements promote educational stability by taking into  
            consideration proximity to the child's school attendance area  
            in selecting the most appropriate home that will meet the  
            child's special needs and best interests.

          3)Requires a case plan to ensure the educational stability of  
            the child while in foster care and to include both of the  
            following assurances:










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             a)   That the placement takes into account the  
               appropriateness of the current educational setting and the  
               proximity to the school in which the child is enrolled at  
               the time of placement; and,

             b)   The placement agency has coordinated with appropriate  
               local educational agencies (LEAs) to ensure that the child  
               remains in the school in which the child is enrolled at the  
               time of placement, or, if remaining in that school is not  
               in the best interests of the child, assurances by the  
               placement agency and the local educational agency to  
               provide immediate and appropriate enrollment in a new  
               school and to provide all of the child's educational  
               records to the new school.

          4)Allows a foster child to remain in his or her school of origin  
            for the duration of the school year when his or her  
            residential placement changes and when remaining in the same  
            school is in the child's best interest.

          5)Defines "school of origin" as the school the foster child  
            attended when he or she was permanently housed or the last  
            school the foster child was enrolled in.

          6)Requires each LEA to designate a staff person as the  
            educational liaison for foster children to ensure and  
            facilitate the proper educational placement, enrollment in  
            school, and checkout from school of foster children, and to  
            assist foster children when transferring from one school to  
            another or from one school district to another in ensuring  
            proper transfer of credits, records, and grades.

          7)Provides that the foster youth liaison, in consultation with  
            and the agreement of the foster child and the person holding  
            the right to make educational decisions for the foster child  
            may, in accordance with the foster child's best interests,  
            recommend that the foster child's right to attend the school  
            of origin be waived and that the foster child be enrolled in  
            any public school that pupils living in the attendance area in  
            which the foster child resides are eligible to attend.

          8)Specifies that prior to making any recommendation to move a  
            foster child from his or her school of origin, the foster  
            youth liaison shall provide the foster child and the person  
            holding the right to make educational decisions for the foster  









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            child with a written explanation stating the basis for the  
            recommendation and how this recommendation serves the foster  
            child's best interest.

           FISCAL EFFECT :   This bill has been keyed non-fiscal. 

           COMMENTS  :  Placement in foster care or changes in placement  
          while in foster care often result in school changes for children  
          and youth, and these school changes are disruptive to the  
          educational achievement of foster children and youth.  As a 2009  
          research synthesis on school mobility points out, "School  
          mobility can contribute to low school performance and related  
          difficulties because it introduces discontinuities in learning  
          environments that alter or weaken instructional, school, and  
          peer ecologies.  Subject-matter curricula and expectations in  
          the classroom can differ dramatically across schools, which in  
          addition to the process of adjustment itself, can adversely  
          affect learning. This often carries over to learning in the  
          classroom."<1>

          This bill makes various changes to existing provisions relative  
          to school stability for children and youth in the foster care  
          system.  According to the author, this bill "seeks to prioritize  
          the educational stability of children and youth in foster care  
          and ensure that they have the same opportunities as their  
          peers."
            
          Prior legislative efforts have sought to address issues of  
          school stability for foster children.  As a result of AB 490  
          (Steinberg), Chapter 862, Statutes of 2003, current law allows a  
          foster child to remain in his or her school of origin for the  
          duration of the school year when his or her residential  
          placement changes and when staying in their school of origin is  
          in the best interest of the child.  Furthermore, SB 597 (Liu),  
          Chapter 339, Statutes of 2009, consistent with the federal  
          Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act,  
          requires a case plan to provide assurances that a foster care  
          placement takes into account the appropriateness of the current  
          educational setting and the proximity to the school in which the  
          child is enrolled at the time of placement, as well as  
          assurances that the placement agency has coordinated with  
          appropriate LEAs to ensure that the child remains in the school  

          ---------------------------
          <1> Arthur J. Reynolds, Chin-Chih Chen, and Janette E. Herbers.  
          School Mobility and Educational Success: A Research Synthesis  
          and Evidence on Prevention. University of Minnesota: 2009  








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          in which he or she is enrolled at the time of placement, unless  
          it is not in the child's best interest.  

          This bill amends several provisions that will strengthen school  
          stability for pupils in foster care and will ensure that more  
          educational information in included in a child's heath and  
          education summary.  However, some of the provisions of this bill  
          may create some conflicts with existing law and thus potentially  
          result in unintended consequences, which this committee may wish  
          to consider.  

          Current law provides that all decisions regarding educational  
          placements for children in foster care should be made in the  
          best interest of the child.  This bill adds to this existing  
          provision that consideration shall be given to:

             1)   Educational stability by allowing the child to remain in  
               the school of origin by avoiding school transfers that  
               occur outside of the normal matriculation schedule of the  
               child's school of origin, unless the transfer provides  
               educational benefits to the child; and 
             2)   The opportunity to be educated in the least restrictive  
               educational setting necessary to achieve academic progress.  
                

          Specifying that  consideration  shall be given to "educational  
          stability by allowing the child to remain in the school of  
          origin" appears to weaken existing rights of foster youth to  
          actually remain in the school of origin.  Giving consideration  
          to allowing the child to remain in the school of origin is  
          different than what is provided under current law.  Foster youth  
          have the right to remain in their school of origin, when there  
          is a change in placement, for the duration of the school year,  
          unless that right is waived.  Furthermore, this bill implies  
          that only certain school transfers should be avoided,  
          specifically those that occur outside of a district's normal  
          matriculation schedule.  To the extent that there may be some  
          districts that allow youth to remain in the school of origin for  
          longer than what is required under current law, a question  
          emerges as to whether some of the provisions of this bill  
          regarding the specificity on which school transfers should be  
          avoided may interfere with such practices.  Educational  
          stability is determined on a case by case basis depending on the  
          child's circumstances, and therefore, adding language that could  
          limit or weaken educational stability opportunities for youth in  









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          foster care is contrary to prior and current legislative  
          efforts.  Legislation approved by this Committee, earlier this  
          year, AB 1933 (Brownley), seeks to strengthen existing rights of  
          foster youth to remain in their school of origin for the  
          duration of the court's jurisdiction and to allow foster  
          children and youth to continue attending schools according to  
          school feeder patterns as they matriculate from grade level to  
          grade level.  This bill unintentionally contradicts previously  
          approved legislation by implying that only school transfers that  
          occur outside of a district's matriculation schedule should be  
          avoided.  The inconsistencies in the two policies taken together  
          may create unintended consequences in the implementation of  
          these two bills, should they both be enacted.  

          Additionally, the language providing that school transfers that  
          occur outside of the normal matriculation schedule shall be  
          avoided, "unless the transfer provides educational benefits to  
          the child," is overly broad and could impose a subjective  
          standard on making the determination of educational benefit.   
          This language also fails to recognize that a school transfer  
          could actually be deemed to be in the best interest of the child  
          in order to meet his or her safety needs.  In this situation,  
          the "educational benefit" provision could be in conflict with  
          "best interest" and thus this may create a conflict with  
          existing law that may result in uncertainty as to how to handle  
          such a situation.  The expectation would be that decisions would  
          be made in the best interest of the child, but clearly the  
          potential exists for inconsistencies to result with the  
          enactment of this bill.  Hence, to avoid unnecessary  
          inconsistencies in the law,  staff recommends  an amendment to  
          delete on page 4, line 18, "by allowing the child to remain in  
          the" and delete lines 19-21, inclusive.  

          This bill also adds language to the section relative to a foster  
          child's case plan and placement, and it specifies, among other  
          provisions, that "If a school transfer is deemed necessary in  
          accordance with the law, the decision regarding the placement  
          shall consider whether the placement promotes educational  
          stability by its location in or near the child's school of  
          origin or school attendance area, and provides an opportunity to  
          avoid school transfers or at a minimum, delays any necessary  
          school transfer to the summer or normal matriculation schedule."  
           The section of the law where this language would be added deals  
          with decisions regarding out-of-home placements and it shall be  
          noted that existing law and other parts of this bill already  









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          provide that consideration be given to school stability.  This  
          section of the law deals with decisions regarding the choice of  
          placement, and thus adding new language to this section relative  
          to school transfers may add some confusion to this section of  
          the law.  Additionally, the language also appears to imply that  
          school transfer decisions can take precedence over placement  
          decisions.  Because the Education Code is clear regarding the  
          right of youth to remain in the school of origin, this language  
          may create inconsistencies with the provisions relative to the  
          process by which children and youth in foster care can waive  
          their right to remain in the school of origin.  Current law  
          specifies that the foster youth liaison in consultation with the  
          foster youth and the person holding educational rights for that  
          youth, may in accordance with the foster child's best interest,  
          recommend that the child's right to attend the school of origin  
          be waived.  Additionally, current law requires prior to making a  
          recommendation to move the child from his or her school of  
          origin, the foster youth liaison to provide the child and the  
          educational rights holder written explanation of the basis for  
          the recommendation and how the recommendation serves the child's  
          best interest.  To maintain clarity between the two codes,  staff  
          recommends  the bill be amended to delete the following: on page  
          10, line 36, "If a school transfer is necessary in," and delete  
          lines 37-40.  On page 11 delete lines 1-3, inclusive.  

          This bill adds other language that strengthens the provisions  
          relative to school stability considerations and it encourages  
          the CDE and DSS to develop other indicators of school stability.  
           

          This bill also adds to the information that is currently  
          required to be included within the health and education summary  
          of a child's case plan, the number of school transfers the child  
          has experienced and the child's educational progress.   
          Education-related requirements for this summary currently  
          include the child's grade level performance and the child's  
          school record.  The term "educational progress" could be further  
          defined to provide some guidance to educators on what indicators  
          to consider.   Staff recommends  the bill be amended to add on  
          page 7, line 17, after "educational progress,"  as demonstrated  
          by factors, including but not limited to academic proficiency  
          scores, and credits earned toward graduation  .  The inclusion of  
          this information along with the number of transfers that a pupil  
          has experienced will give advocates, social workers and the  
          courts more complete information on the child and his or her  









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          needs.   Staff further recommends  a technical amendment on page  
          5, line 38, to delete "caused by transfers," which appears to be  
          remaining language from a previous amendment.  

          Staff notes that Legislative Counsel has identified a conflict  
          between this bill and AB 12 (Beall and Bass), as both bills  
          amend Welfare and Institutions Code Section 16501.1.  The author  
          may wish to address this conflict as this bill moves forward. 

          The author states, "Unfortunately, foster children continue to  
          have high mobility - 1/3 change schools at least 5 times while  
          in foster care.  This severely hinders the ability of youth who  
          age out of care to reach their full professional and personal  
          potential. Limiting interruptions to academics can significantly  
          improve opportunities for children and youth in foster care -  
          research shows that one fewer placement change per year doubles  
          their chances of graduating high school." 

          This bill was heard and approved by the Assembly Human Services  
          Committee on June 15 with a 5-0 vote. 

           Arguments in support:  The Compton Unified School District  
          (CUSD), the sponsor of this bill, writes, "CUSD is pleased to be  
          the sponsor of this legislation because we know our foster youth  
          deserve access to educational opportunities in manner that  
          strengthens and supports their academic journey.  The long-term  
          negative academic and social impacts of multiple mid-year school  
          transfers, often associated with moving to a new home, have a  
          tragic impact on the ability of students in foster care to  
          maintain healthy relationships with their peers, teachers and  
          other adults.  They often lose motivation to engage in school,  
          reducing the likelihood that hey will attend college and build  
          fulfilling careers as adults."

           Arguments in Opposition  :  The Children's Law Center of Los  
          Angeles has an "oppose unless amended" position on this bill and  
          it writes, "Children's Law Center of Los Angeles (CLC) is  
          opposed to Senate Bill 1353, because these statutory changes  
          will weaken a basic educational right for foster children and  
          youth, the right to attend their school of origin for the  
          academic year if they are placed by a child welfare agency  
          outside the school's residence boundaries.  While we support the  
          right to educational stability for foster youth and that school  
          placements be based on the best interest of the children, we do  
          not believe these proposed changes accomplish that goal." 









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           Related legislation  :  AB 1933 (Brownley) requires a LEA to allow  
          a child in foster care to remain in his or her school of origin  
          for the duration of the court's jurisdiction, and provides that  
          a LEA shall allow a child in foster care that remains in his or  
          her school of origin, following initial detention or following a  
          change in placement, to attend the secondary schools designated  
          for matriculation in accordance with the established feeder  
          patterns of the school district when that child is transitioning  
          between school grade levels.  AB 1933 is pending in the Senate  
          Appropriations Committee.  

           Previous legislation  : AB 1067 (Brownley) of 2009, conforms state  
          law to federal law intended to ensure educational stability for  
          children in foster care, including requiring local education  
          agencies to allow foster children to remain in the school in  
          which they were enrolled at the time of foster care placement  
          and requires the Department of Social Services (DSS) to take all  
          reasonable actions to maximize eligibility for available federal  
          funding for reasonable travel costs for children in foster care,  
          in accord with federal law.  AB 1067 was held in the Assembly  
          Appropriations Committee.  

          AB 490 (Steinberg), Chapter 862, Statutes of 2003, created new  
          duties and rights related to the education of dependents and  
          wards in foster care, including giving foster youth the right to  
          remain in their school of origin for the duration of the school  
          year when their residential placement changes and remaining in  
          the same school is in the child's best interest.  

           REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :

           Support 
           
          Compton Unified School District (Sponsor)
          Advancement Project 
          Aspiranet
          Bridge of Faith 
          California Probation, Parole, and Correctional Association 
          California State PTA
          California Teachers Association 
          City of Compton, Office of the City Manager
          New Visions Foundation 
          Para Los Ni?os
          Pomona Unified School District 









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          State Public Affairs Committee of the Junior Leagues of  
          California
          U-Turn Alcohol & Drug Education Program 

           Opposition 
           
          Children's Law Center of Los Angeles (Unless Amended)

           Analysis Prepared by  :    Marisol Avi?a / ED. / (916) 319-2087