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Uninterupted Scholars Act

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. GEORGE MILLER of California. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of this bipartisan legislation to help foster children succeed in school.

The Uninterrupted Scholars Act will make a real and immediate difference in the lives of foster children across this country.

I want to thank Congresswoman Bass and Senator Landrieu for their support of this legislation, the Senate for sending this legislation back to the House, Chairman ROE for managing this on the floor, and Chairman Kline for agreeing to have this legislation come to the House today.

In thanking Congresswoman Bass, I want to recognize her not only as the author of this legislation, but for her leadership both here in Washington and in the State legislature in our State of California when she served there on behalf of these young people to make sure that they would have a better opportunity at success.

Foster children are some of the most at-risk students. As a group, they miss more school than their peers, are more likely to drop out, and take longer to finish when they do graduate. Throughout their young lives, they may change care placements multiple times. Each placement means adjusting to a new family and often a new community, new friends, and a new school.

Each move can put their educational success in jeopardy. That's because the caseworkers who advocate for them as they move from one school to another often do so without critical information. Though current law rightly requires foster care caseworkers to include children's education records in their case plans, another Federal law limits the ability of caseworkers to access those records in a timely manner.

Without access to a foster child's school records, caseworkers are limited in their ability to advocate for the child's educational needs, especially as they move from one school to another or from one family to another. Without these records, caseworkers don't have the necessary information to make important and informed decisions about placement, wraparound services, and credit transfers among schools. That means that those vulnerable children do not get the services that they need. This red tape creates unnecessary hurdles for educational successes for many foster children. And if there's one thing foster children don't need in life, it's additional hurdles to jump. They have plenty of hurdles confronting them every day as they try to succeed within the system.

This legislation before us today makes narrow changes to FERPA to allow foster care caseworkers to do a better job on behalf of these young people. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. GEORGE MILLER of California. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

The care and concern for foster children has been a bit of a relay race for myself back in the late seventies and eighties, to Senator Russell Long, to former Congressman Tom Downey, former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, to Senator Landrieu, now Karen Bass from my State of California, and Congressman McDermott before her.

We've tried to make sure that these young people, with a lot of chaos in their life, far beyond any of their own doing, have a chance to succeed. Clearly, the best chance to succeed is to see that they get a good education and an opportunity to participate in American society and in America's economy. This act, the Uninterrupted Scholars Act, goes a long way toward helping their advocates make sure that they get the best shot at the best education.

So I want to thank all the supporters of this legislation, Congressman ROE and Congressman Kline, for their support and their willingness to bring it to the floor of the House so we can send it to the President of the United States.

Just before I conclude my remarks, Mr. Speaker, I want to take a moment to recognize a cherished member of my staff who will be leaving the committee at the beginning of January.

Ruth Friedman began her career with me as a fellow in my personal office more than a decade ago. Because of her hard work and dedication and unparalleled expertise, she rose to become my education policy director on the committee.

Ruth holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and is one of the foremost experts in early childhood policy. I can tell you that the children of this country benefited every day from her work on the Education Committee.

Ruth has spent her career fighting for the most vulnerable children on issues like child welfare, juvenile justice, early learning, child care, child abuse prevention and treatment. She has worked on countless pieces of legislation successfully, including today's bill, and was instrumental is passing the 2007 Head Start Reauthorization Act.

I want to thank Ruth for her extraordinary service to me, to the committee, to the Nation, and to the Nation's children. Her advice and counsel have been invaluable, and she will be sorely missed, but we know that she has great accomplishments ahead of her.

Ruth, I want to wish you, Pete, and Dylan all of the best. Thank you so much for all of your service to our committee on both sides of the aisle, and certainly to this Nation's children.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues to support this legislation, thank Congressman Roe for managing this bill on the floor, and I yield back the balance of my time

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