The Senate Education Committee approved the Education Compact for Kids in State Care Monday. Sen. Ron Sharp, author of Senate Bill 632, said it will remove the barriers that many young people and their families experience when it is time to transition back to their home school after placement within the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA) or the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS).
“It’s important to the mental growth and emotional well-being of these kids that we do what we can to facilitate an easy transition to school. Many don’t have structured lives and supportive families like most of us had growing up,” said Sharp, R-Shawnee. “What we want is to assure them with all certainty that they can go back to school, they can participate in meaningful and healthy school organizations and also let them know what the requirements are to graduate.”
Sharp explained that much of the bill mirrors the Military Compact, which helps kids dealing with multiple deployments transition to different schools quickly and efficiently. The measure also meets guidelines for the Oklahoma State Foster Care Plan or ESSA.
The measure was requested by the Oklahoma State Department of Education (SDE), OKDHS and OJA who collaborated on the wording and agreed that it was fair and would benefit at-risk youth and their families.
SB 632 creates an advisory committee consisting of one representative from OJA, SDE and OKDHS. Students in state care would be automatically enrolled when they arrived at school, which would allow time for districts to work with the parent, guardian or a designee from OJA or DHS while the permanent records were being requested. The students would be enrolled even if they did not have up to date vaccination records. Students and families would have 30 days to provide updated records or complete the exemption certificate as required by state law. They would also be allowed to try out for athletics or apply for education or social clubs once they arrived at school. Finally, the bill would provide consistency regarding graduation requirements by enrolling students in the core curriculum track as stated by Oklahoma statute but they would be able to take more rigorous courses or pursue the college prep track if they wanted.
SB 632 will next be heard by the full Senate.