February 21, 2024

JBAY Partners with Assemblymember Quirk-Silva to Ensure Educational Equity for Foster Youth & Homeless Students

JBAY Partners with Assemblymember Quirk-Silva to Ensure Educational Equity for Foster Youth & Homeless Students

John Burton Advocates for Youth has teamed up with Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva on Assembly Bill 2137 which was introduced into the legislature on February 6th. AB 2137 is co-sponsored by the National Center for Youth Law.

This important policy proposal aims to improve educational outcomes for youth who have been in foster care or homeless through three provisions. Currently, both student groups lag behind the general K to 12 student population academically. They are also more likely to be chronically absent and suspended than non-foster or non-homeless students.

JBAY Youth Advocate Taneil Franklin has faced these challenges and recently explained how she persevered on the EDUCATE.ELEVATE podcast. As a teen, she was homeschooled and was the primary caregiver for her younger siblings, “It made me grow up faster than I should have.”

Taneil entered foster care and learned that college was within reach from from her high school counselor, despite grades that disqualified her from a four-year college. “I learned I had a chance.” Today, Taneil attends LA Trade Tech and is licensed in phlebotomy. Her goal is to transfer to an Historically Black College or University, namely Howard Univeristy.

AB 2137 will help young people like Taneil by making several important changes. First, it will give new flexibility to local county offices of education, allowing them to directly assist foster youth who need it. Currently, county offices are required to seek a time-consuming waiver from the local school district before assisting youth, losing valuable time for the student. In other areas, a waiver is simply not possible, making services to foster youth unavailable.

AB 2137 will also require school districts to inform the county office of education when a foster youth who is a senior in high school is opted-out of completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or California Dream Act, the financial aid application for non-citizens. By doing so, the county program can design tailored interventions and offer additional support to ensure that foster youth make informed decisions regarding financial aid and postsecondary education.

Finally, AB 2137 seeks to improve educational outcomes for the over 170,000 K to 12 public school students experiencing homelessness by requiring school districts to address their needs in their Local Control Accountability Plan, the planning document required of every school district by the California Department of Education.

Senior Project Manager Sarah Pauter believes these policy reforms are practical improvements in a tough budget year. “AB 2137 embodies practical steps toward a fairer education system. It’s about giving foster youth and homeless students the support they need to thrive academically. These provisions are crucial for leveling the playing field and addressing real challenges in our schools.”