Bill Would Help Towns Such as Willingboro
(TRENTON) – Assembly-approved legislation Assemblymen Jack Conners and Herb Conaway, M.D., sponsored to ensure New Jersey foster children receive a stable education cleared another hurdle on Thursday when it was released by a Senate panel.
The bill (A-2137) would revise state policy that automatically places a foster child in the school district of their foster family. Instead, the bill would allow a child to remain in their current school if they are moved to a different foster family. It was approved 76-0 by the Assembly in March and released Thursday by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
The bill would put New Jersey in compliance with federal law and ensure the state doesn’t risk losing about $125 million in federal aid.
“This will establish a system to support educational stability for children placed in foster care,” said Conners (D-Burlington/Camden). “We know that foster children can often be uprooted from their schools and suddenly placed in new environments, which can be difficult for anyone let alone a child. It’s hard enough for a child placed in foster care, so a simple step like this can provide some stability with that all important tool for their future – education.”
“Moving from school to school can be stressful for any child, but especially so for children in foster care,” said Conaway (D-Burlington/Camden). “With this bill, we can keep children with their friends, classmates and teachers and provide some stability amid a difficult situation. That would be healthy for them both academically and psychologically.”
Assemblymen Conaway and Conners also lauded the bill for shifting financial responsibility for foster education back to the child’s sending district. Under current law, towns receiving foster children are responsible for paying for the education of foster children, causing a hardship for taxpayers in towns like Willingboro in the 7th Legislative District, which takes in many more foster children than it loses to other towns.
“When citizens open their homes to foster children, their goal is to provide a safer and healthier living environment for a child in need,” Conners said. “This legislation will allow communities to continue to embrace foster children without overburdening local taxpayers.”
Under the bill, even if the determination is made that a child should be educated in the new community’s local schools, the child’s district of origin must reimburse the new district.
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