On Tuesday, the House Education Committee passed a bill seeking to ensure the needs of foster care students are met with 18 members voting yes and one pass vote.
House Bill 312, sponsored by House Speaker Pro Tem David Meade, seeks to empower teachers and schools with the information they need to help Kentucky’s foster kids be successful in the classroom.
Meade explained the bill would work to ensure children are in a safe environment by not placing children in foster homes that have been closed or is under corrective action. It would also take other key needs into consideration when a child is removed from a foster home including their education and personal needs while in school.
The legislation would strengthen the sharing of academic information between school districts about foster children when they must enter a new school and would require a child’s caseworker to communicate directly with the new school when critical placement and service decisions are made.
Confidential information pertaining to the student will also be protected and the bill will help make sure that children are being placed in quality foster homes that are able and willing to do what is necessary to support the child’s education.
Kentucky Chamber Director of Political Affairs Travis Burton testified in favor of the bill stating the business community’s desire to see schools and teachers given more tools to help improve academic outcomes for this significant student population.
“We know many kids already face certain academic barriers when they enter into foster care. We want to help alleviate as many challenges as possible when they must enter not only foster care but a new school. This bill will help do that.”
Kentucky School Board Association Government Affairs Director Eric Kennedy noted children spend so much time in the classroom and it is critical to ensure foster children have a safe and supportive educational environment. Kennedy said he believes the information sharing and other aspects of the bill will help meet the needs of those students.
Stephanie Spires, a member of the Fayette County School Board and a foster parent of more than 40 children, shared stories from her children who struggled when they moved schools multiple times while in foster care. She stated while some don’t see this as a huge issue, there were more than 18,000 children in foster care last year and there is a significant need to address the deficiencies within the current system.
House Bill 312 now moves to the full House for a vote on the floor.