Arizona Governor Supports Bill to Make FosterEd a Statewide Program
by Peter Hershberger
The Arizona Legislature is considering a bill that would bring the FosterEd Arizona demonstration project to scale. For the last two years, FosterEd, an initiative of the National Center for Youth Law, has run a program to meet the educational needs of students in foster care, in Pima County, Arizona.
Statewide expansion of the demonstration program is included in HB 2665. The statewide program would be known as the Foster Youth Education Success Program. The bill also establishes the Foster Youth Education Success Fund and authorizes the Governor’s Office to contract with a 501 (c) 3, through state procurement, to run the program. Additionally the bill authorizes a $1,000,000 appropriation from the General Fund to be deposited in the Foster Youth Education Success Fund and authorizes a dollar for dollar match of state funds with any philanthropic funds deposited in the Foster Youth Education Success Fund up to $500,000. Additional philanthropic funds may be deposited in the Foster Youth Education Success Fund.
The legislation follows on the heels of a report published by the nationally recognized research firm WestEd, The Arizona Invisible Achievement Gap. This report documents the achievement gap experienced by Arizona students in foster care. These students are more likely to attend the poorest preforming schools, are more likely to drop out and are less likely to graduate than any other group of students. This report, along with the federal passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which places significant requirements on states regarding students in foster care, has spurred Arizona policy makers to establish a program to improve the educational outcomes of students in foster care.
HB 2665 originated as a bill to put into statute Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s “fast track” provisions for students in foster care to get preference to attend the best preforming schools. The bill was expanded to include the FosterEd framework, and accomplish another interest of the Governor’s, public/private partnerships.
FosterEd Arizona runs the FosterEd demonstration site in Pima County. The program is overseen by a State Leadership Team, comprised of high level representatives of state agencies, and is advised by a Community Planning Team, comprised of local representatives of state and community organizations. A just released year 2 evaluation of the program, by an independent evaluation firm, RTI International, shows improved attendance for students served by the program among other important indicators of progress.