The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) The Foster Youth Services (FYS) program has been a successful program that supports the educational achievement of pupils in foster care. This success has contributed to landmark California education finance reform that prioritizes the educational needs of pupils in foster care.
(b) The county office of education FYS program is uniquely situated to support interagency collaboration and capacity building, both at the system and individual pupil level, focused on improving educational outcomes for pupils in foster care. This is a key component to the successful implementation of the local control funding formula (LCFF). The FYS program should support and facilitate such collaboration and capacity building while preserving the ability to provide direct services such as tutoring, mentoring, counseling, transition, school-based social work, and emancipation assistance when there are identified gaps in service at the local level and the local Executive Advisory Council establishes that these services are needed and aligned with local control and accountability plan priorities.
(c) Pupils in foster care will benefit from increased levels of supports and services as a result of the FYS program supporting implementation of the LCFF for pupils in foster care.
(d) Pupils in foster care represent one of the most vulnerable and academically at-risk pupil groups enrolled in California schools. The academic status of pupils in foster care is often profoundly impacted by the foster care system in which many pupils in foster care experience multiple placements with an average frequency of one placement change every six months. Due to this movement, pupils in foster care lose an average of four to six months of educational attainment with each move. Therefore, it is essential to recognize, identify, and plan for the critical and unique educational needs of pupils in foster care.
(e) A high percentage of pupils in foster care are working substantially below grade level, and over one-half of the pupils in foster care are retained at least one year in the same grade level. Pupils in foster care earn lower grades and achieve lower scores on standardized achievements tests in reading and mathematics, have lower levels of engagement in school, and are half as likely as pupils not in foster care to be involved in extracurricular activities. The long-term consequences of poor academic experiences are significant. Pupils in foster care are twice as likely as pupils not in foster care to drop out of school before graduation and only 45 percent of pupils in foster care have graduated from high school at the time of emancipation. Foster youth are similarly underrepresented in college enrollment rates and dramatically underperform their peers in relation to college completion. Pupils in foster care are also subject to disproportionate levels of disciplinary measures, including suspension and expulsion. It is imperative that California close the foster youth achievement gap so that pupils in foster care can realize their full potential, reach their college and career goals, and become independent, productive members of society.
(f) Foster youth are an especially vulnerable pupil population, as they are often also members of other underserved pupil groups. In 2013, the demographic data of pupils in foster care in California were as follows:
(1) The largest ethnic group amongst pupils in foster care was Hispanic, with nearly half of the population.
(2) African American and Native American pupils continue to be disproportionately represented in the child welfare system, as researchers found that 26 percent of pupils in foster care were African American despite African Americans only accounting for 7 percent of the pupil population in California, and 2 percent of pupils in foster care were Native American despite Native Americans only accounting for 1 percent of the pupil population in California.
(3) Nearly one in five pupils in foster care had special education needs, which is over twice the rate of the statewide pupil population.
(4) More than 1 in 10 pupils in foster care were English learners.
(5) A significant number of youth in foster care identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, or gender nonconforming.
(g) Compounded by the research that indicates that there is a need for California to close the achievement gap between specific ethnic pupil populations and White pupils, addressing the foster youth achievement gap will further efforts that support education equity for all pupils.
(h) Given their current academic status, pupils in foster care are more likely to achieve their full potential when they are provided services and programs designed to meet their particular needs, including, but not limited to, supplemental instruction, counseling, tutoring, support services offered to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and gender nonconforming youth, and other assistance relevant to their experience.
(i) Policies and laws addressing the educational rights of pupils in foster care must be implemented so that pupils in foster care are immediately enrolled in school, provided access to meaningful opportunities to meet state pupil academic achievement standards to which all pupils are held, provided access to a rigorous curriculum, adequately prepared to enter postsecondary education, and afforded the academic resources, services, and extracurricular and enrichment activities made available to other pupils enrolled in California's public schools, including, but not limited to, interscholastic sports administered by the California Interscholastic Federation. In fulfilling their responsibilities to these pupils, educators, county placing agencies, caregivers, advocates, and the juvenile courts will work together to ensure that each pupil is placed in the least restrictive educational environment.
(j) Foster youth services programs provide pupils in foster care needed educational support and are a state priority.
(Added by Stats. 2015, Ch. 781, Sec. 2.)