By David Gordon
California has been a national leader in passing state legislation to improve educational outcomes for foster youth and in recognizing the importance of sharing education data. Now, with the passage of the federal Uninterrupted Scholars Act and Governor Brown’s focus on the education needs of foster youth, the time is right for California to support the use of a statewide foster youth education database. We are in a unique position to serve more foster youth and literally save lives in the process.
Collaboration and data sharing is what the California Legislature had in mind when it passed the landmark Assembly Bill 490 (AB 490), also known as the Educational Rights and Stability for Foster Youth Act, in 2003. The bill authorizes the release of educational records to child welfare workers for purposes of educational case management. Unfortunately, the ensuing debate as to whether data sharing provisions in the bill conflicted with federal law (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) resulted in compliance that varied from county to county. That led to delays and, in some cases, refusals to share data needed to improve the educational outcomes for foster children.