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Public Statements

Uninterrupted Scholars Act

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Unknown

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Mr. ROE of Tennessee. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise today in support of S. 3472, the Uninterrupted Scholars Act. The bill amends the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, better known as FERPA, to give child welfare agency caseworkers access to the educational records of foster children. This is an important bill that will help improve the quality of education for children in foster care.

In 2008, Congress passed the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, which tasked
child welfare agencies with ensuring that children in foster care are enrolled in school. In carrying out this important mission, agencies are required to consider educational stability when identifying foster care placements and coordinate with local school districts to ensure that young people stay in their current school when placed in foster care or are immediately enrolled in a new school if that is in their best interest.

Over the last 4 years, student privacy law has made it difficult to properly implement the educational stability provisions of the Fostering Connections law. For example, child welfare agents are unable to access student education records in a timely manner, if at all, to properly monitor student progress and coursework, or to get students enrolled in the proper courses if a transfer of schools is necessary.

The Uninterrupted Scholars Act will correct these challenges. By allowing direct--and limited--access to the education records of foster kids, caseworkers can follow the students' education in a timely manner and help ensure greater success in school.

The Committee on Education and the Workforce--and this Congress--understands the importance of maintaining strong student privacy protections and supports the provisions included in FERPA. It is our responsibility to ensure a student's personal information, such as academic progress, placement or disciplinary records, is not shared with anyone other than officials directly involved in the student's education.

For children in foster care, child welfare agents have a responsibility to look out for the education of their students and have a direct need to have access to these important records. The bill before us today narrowly grants caseworkers access to these important records.

Mr. Speaker, S. 3472 is a narrow, but critical, step in helping children in foster care receive a better education. I urge my colleagues to support this bill and reserve the balance of my time.

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