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VFA Policy Intern Blogs on ESSA

Angelica Cox, Policy Intern 

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) recently published proposed regulations to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), including proposals related to foster care. One of these regulations addresses the critical importance of providing transportation for foster care students to promote educational stability.

This is significant because when students enter foster care, they are often forced to move disrupting their lives in numerous ways. ESSA (Title 1, Part A) requests that children in care remain in their school of origin, unless there is a compelling reason for them to change schools. The local child welfare agencies are in charge of ensuring that transportation is provided to youth when it is needed, even when there is a disagreement between the LEA (local education agency) and SEA (state education agency) over who should pay the additional costs. Therefore, it is imperative that child welfare agencies collaborate with education agencies on how transportation agencies will be funded. Federal child welfare reimbursement dollars are available to assist with school transportation costs, but these reimbursements will be actualized in each state and jurisdiction. The dependency court must oversee the child welfare agencies obligation for school stability to ensure their overall compliance with this regulation.

For the 415,000 youth in care, this regulation could be pivotal to their long-term success in life. When supported by strong policies, positive school experiences can counteract the negate effects of trauma foster youth have experienced. Education not only supports economic success in adult life, but it also provides opportunities for improved well-being in social, intellectual, and physical domains during critical development periods. According to the National Factsheet on the Education Outcomes of Children in Foster Care, only 54-58% of foster youth graduate from high school by the age of 19 compared to 87% of youth in the general population. These low-graduation rates are often attributed to foster youth changing schools, which can often take up four to six months for them to recover academically per move. In addition, youth who change schools often feel stigmatized because of their foster care status and have trouble forming support systems and peer connections. Overall, the lack of school stability for children in the system only further disadvantages them, and providing adequate transportation is vital to overcoming this barrier.