Today the House of Representatives unanimously passed a bipartisan amendment authored by Reps. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Tom Marino (R-Penn.), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) and Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) to H.R. 10, the "Success and Opportunity Through Quality Charter Schools Act." The amendment would help to ensure that foster and homeless youth are not unfairly disadvantaged in the enrollment process for charter schools.
Across the country, many charter schools often have requirements that do not exist at traditional public schools. For example, they may require parent interviews or volunteer service during the academic year. If parents fail to meet these requirements, students will often be denied school access or lose their seat in the school the following school year.
However, foster and homeless students may not have adults in their lives who are able to interview or volunteer, and this requirement will close off the possibility for these students to attend charter schools in their communities that may be the best option for their educational needs.
"I want to thank the members of Congress from both sides of the aisle in the Foster Youth Caucus who came together to author this common-sense but necessary amendment," said Congresswoman Bass. "Foster and homeless youth need more educational options, not less, and making this change will enable the nearly 400,000 foster youth and 1.7 million homeless youth in the United States to not be cut off from quality schools."
"As we consider this bill to strengthen the charter school system, I am glad we have worked to make sure that foster youth will have the same opportunities to access the innovative educational opportunities that high performing charter schools offer," said Congressman Marino.
"This welcome instance of bipartisan collaboration in Congress underscores the urgency to forge a just, healthy foster care system for children and families," said Congressman McDermott. "Foster children need the same things to succeed that all children need -- a safe home, a caring family, access to health care and a good education. This legislation protects educational opportunity for nearly 400,000 foster youth and 1.7 million homeless youth and is an important step forward in our mission to help foster children grow to be healthy, productive adults."
"Through no fault of their own, foster youth often face significant obstacles when it comes to their educational opportunities and success," said Congresswoman Bachmann. "Our hope is that this bipartisan amendment will help to push the doors of opportunity and educational choice open a little wider for some of the children who need it most."
"Schools can't help if kids can't get in, and this bipartisan, common-sense amendment clears away an obstacle for foster children," said First Focus Campaign for Children president Bruce Lesley.
A 2013 study from the National Center for Youth Law found that even as graduation rates across the United States are rising, and 84 percent of all high school students graduate from high school, only 58 percent of students in foster care graduated from high school.
The "Success and Opportunity Through Quality Charter Schools Act" passed the House on a vote of 360 to 45, and it now moves to the Senate for its consideration.
Founded in 2011, the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth was created by co-chairs Reps. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Tom Marino (R-Penn.), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) and Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) to protect and promote the welfare of all children in foster care and those who have "aged out" of the system. The Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth provides a forum for Members of Congress to discuss and develop policy recommendations to strengthen the child welfare system and improve the overall well-being of youth and families.