Senate passes bill focusing on foster children’s education

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The Kansas Senate held a unanimous 39-0 vote in favor of SB384 on Thursday. The bill will help lawmakers keep a better eye on how children in the foster care system are doing academically.

Last year, around 40% of high school seniors in the foster care system graduated, said Sen. Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisburg), who introduced the bill.

“We just want to make sure that they get as much support and as many services as possible so that they know we care about them,” Baumgardner said.

Currently, the state has no way of tracking how foster care children are doing in the school.

“We are not doing enough for youth who are involved in the system,” said Christie Appelhanz, executive director for Children’s Alliance of Kansas. “They’re not performing at the level that we would like to see.”

This bill would require the Kansas Department for Children and Families and the Kansas Department of Education to release annual report cards for every student in the foster care system.

The cards would contain if a student was held back or suspended, if they graduated, and how they did on their state assessments.

Baumgardner hopes this will bring attention to the struggles foster care children face and its impact on their education.

If the bill passes, the Department of Education and Department for Children and Families will have to work together in order to do so, Baumgardner said.

“From a procedural standpoint, they’re really going to have to up their game,” Baumgardner said. “Our hope is that we are not going to have to legislate every step of the way. But if we need to, we will.”

Appelhanz, who works with multiple foster care agencies across the state, said the bill wouldn’t fix everything; however, she hopes it will bring attention and action to improving this problem.

“I hope it ignites a fire under policymakers to really get excited about getting interventions that would change these statistics that we would see if this bill becomes law,” Appelhanz said.

The bill will now continue to the House floor. If it is passed into law, it would make Kansas the second state in the country to enforce such legislation, Baumgardner said.

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