Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs foster care education reform bill - TAI News
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Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill into law that is aimed at ensuring young people in foster care receive proper access to education.

House Bill 4676, signed by the governor on March 28, is part of a three-bill package of education reforms related to foster care introduced by Democratic state Rep. Stephanie Young.

H.B. 4676 amends the Michigan Foster Care and Adoption Services Act to require that children in foster care receive an education that prioritizes high school graduation requirements and allows them to access their educational records to the same extent as students outside foster care, according to a legislative analysis fact sheet issued by the House Fiscal Agency.

The bill requires that children be enrolled in school within five days after being placed in foster care or after any placement change.

According to Chalkbeat, the bill is a response to reports that children in foster care sometimes go weeks or months without being enrolled in school.

“This is a significant milestone for our foster care youth and a testament to our belief that every child in Michigan, regardless of their circumstances, should have equal opportunity to achieve academic success,” Young said in a statement issued by Whitmer’s office.

The bill is also intended to prevent records of young people’s coursework from going missing and to ensure that their curriculum meets standards for completing high school.

“When I heard the heartbreaking stories of foster youth who were working hard at their studies, only to discover their caretakers had given them busy work that wouldn’t count toward graduation, I knew I had to act,” Young said. “By ensuring the educational materials that foster kids receive meets the standards of the Michigan Merit Curriculum, we’re making changes that will help uplift the future of our kids. I’m so proud to have led this effort and thank all of the parents, educators and community members who joined together with me to make this happen.”

The other two bills in the foster care education reform package, H.B. 4677 and H.B. 4678, were signed by Whitmer in February.

The first bill requires the state Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education and the Center for Education Performance and Information to make annual reports to the Michigan Legislature on the number of children in foster care and their educational status and progress. Michigan estimates there are approximately 10,000 children in foster care in the state.

The second bill requires the state Department of Education to regularly review whether foster care institutions are providing educational services that comply with state law.

All three of the bills received sweeping bipartisan support, passing unanimously in the Senate and each receiving only three “no” votes — all of which were from Republicans — in the House of Representatives.

“Michigan’s foster kids deal with so many challenges in their lives, but being denied graduation because their curriculum is inadequate should never be one of them,” Thomas Hickson, Jr., the vice president of public policy and advocacy for the Michigan Catholic Conference, said in the statement issued by Whitmer’s office. “All Michigan’s children deserve a quality education to be able to succeed later in life. We applaud Representative Young for her work and leadership to fix this issue in House Bill 4676 and are grateful the bill is being signed by Governor Whitmer.”

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