California foster youth could benefit from new school budget

Foster youth and other disadvantaged students will receive extra funding; but skeptics wonder if the funds will be sufficient.

Foster youth could benefit from money set aside for disadvantaged students in Gov. Jerry Brown’s new $10 billion budget proposal. However, advocates for foster youth wonder if this allocation is enough.

The students whom the budget proposal lists as “disadvantaged students” include foster youth as well as English language learners and students eligible for free or reduced lunches.

This classification is significant because, while school districts will receive a grant of about $8,000 for every student per day of attendance; they will receive 20% more for disadvantaged students.

These grants are part of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), a new initiative that lets school districts decide where they can best spend certain grants given to them by the state. The LCFF makes up $4.5 billion of the $10 billion budget proposal.

While foster youth could benefit from this new initiative, they are grouped in with other disadvantaged students—a decision that some find ineffective. Advocates argue that youth in foster care are at an even “greater risk” of falling behind academically than similarly disadvantaged students and need more specialized aid.

Advocates support their concern with a study called, “At Greater Risk,” released last year by the Stuart Foundation, based in California and Washington, which shows that compared to similarly disadvantaged students, foster youth are even less likely to complete high school or enroll in college.

“Less than half of foster youth (45 percent) completed high school. Among the comparison sample of disadvantaged youth, 53 percent completed high school,” states the study.

The hesitance over how these funds will be used doesn’t stop with foster youth advocates. These questions reflect a greater uncertainty of how the rest of the budget will aid California school districts.

Maria Ott, a former superintendent of the Rowland Unified School District, noted that while there are extra funds in place, districts are also fighting to make up for drastic cuts to the budget during previous years.

“Good news is there’s some new money,” said Ott, “[However], they are still recovering and it’s going to take years of recovery to recover from what transpired during the years of the cuts.”

Ott says during this first year it’s unclear how these new funds will affect California’s school system.

“We’ll have a better understanding after we go through the cycle,” says Ott.

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