D. School Transitions

1. Foster Care Liaison in Each Texas School District and at the Texas Education Agency

Each school district and open enrollment charter school must appoint at least one employee to facilitate the enrollment in and transfer to a public school of a child in the district who is in the conservatorship of the state. Tex. Educ. Code § 33.904(a)(1). Each school district and open-enrollment charter school must also report the liaison’s name and contact information to TEA. Tex. Educ. Code § 33.904(a)(2).

In recognition of the challenges faced by students in substitute care, TEA shall assist the transition of substitute care students from one school to another by designating at least one agency employee to act as a liaison officer regarding educational issues related to students in the conservatorship of DFPS. Tex. Educ. Code § 25.007(b)(13).

Special Issue: TEA developed several resources regarding foster care liaisons:

•   Updated contact information for the district and open enrollment charter school foster care liaisons is now located in the Ask Texas Education Directory (AskTED), available online at: http://mansfield.tea.state.tx.us/TEA.AskTED.Web/Forms/Home.aspx.

•   If the court cannot locate the school district liaison on the AskTED system, please reference TEA AskTED guidance, located online at: http://tea.texas.gov/WorkArea/linkit.aspx?LinkIdentifier=id&ItemID=25769817937&libID=25769818040.

•   Other resources for liaisons, including contact information for Education Service Center Foster Care Champions, can be found at : http://tea.texas.gov/FosterCareStudentSuccess/liaisons/

2. Enrollment

If DFPS takes possession of a child under Tex. Fam. Code Chapter 262 during the school year, DFPS shall ensure that the child returns to school not later than the third school day after the date an order is rendered providing for possession of the child by DFPS, unless the child has a physical or mental condition of a temporary and remediable nature that makes the child's attendance infeasible. Tex. Fam. Code § 264.115(a).

Special Issue: CPS has revised the policy handbook to require enrollment within two days of the initial removal or placement change. More information is available at: https://www.dfps.state.tx.us/handbooks/CPS/Files/CPS_pg_x15000.asp#CPS_15300.

A child may be enrolled by any person showing evidence of legal responsibility of the child. Tex. Educ. Code § 25.001(j). A child in foster care may attend a school free of charge in the district where the foster parent resides. Tex. Educ. Code § 25.001(f). A school district shall accept a child for enrollment in a public school without the documentation required by Tex. Educ. Code § 25.002(a) if DFPS has taken possession of the child under Tex. Fam. Code Chapter 262. DFPS must furnish that documentation to the school district not later than the 30th day after the date the child is enrolled in the school. Tex. Educ. Code § 25.002(g).

A child may be provisionally admitted to an elementary or secondary school if the child has begun the required immunizations and if the child continues to receive the necessary immunizations as rapidly as is medically feasible. Tex. Educ. Code § 38.001(e).

Special Issue: In general, DFPS delegates day to day decision-making to the child’s caregiver, including responsibility for school enrollment. Upon enrollment in school, a caregiver should present DFPS Forms 2085 and 2085E to ensure the school recognizes the caregiver’s legal authority to enroll the child. These documents also serve to notify the school that the child is in foster care and provide the name of the Education Decision Maker and the Surrogate Parent, if applicable. For more information on acceptable forms for school enrollment, please see TEA PEIMS supplemental guidance at: http://tea.texas.gov/FosterCareGuidance.pdf

3. Records Transfer

TEA shall assist the transition of students in substitute care from one school to another by ensuring that school records for a student in substitute care are transferred to the student's new school not later than the 10th working day after the date the student begins enrollment at the school. Tex. Educ. Code § 25.007(b)(1).

Special Issue: Districts failing to provide the required information within 10 calendar days of a written request by the receiving school district may be reported to the Texas Records Exchange Help Desk: (512) 463-7246 or TREx@tea.texas.gov.

4. Education Passport

Each child in DFPS conservatorship must have an education passport. The education passport contains educational records of the child, including the names and addresses of educational providers, the child's grade-level performance, and any other important educational information. Tex. Fam. Code § 266.008(a). DFPS shall maintain the passport as part of DFPS records for the child as long as the child remains in foster care. Tex. Fam. Code § 266.008(b). DFPS has a duty to make the education passport available to any person authorized by law to make educational decisions for the child in foster care. Tex. Fam. Code § 266.008(c)(1).

Special Issue: For more information about the education passport, referred to as the Education Portfolio or "green binder," please see:

•   CPS Policy Handbook Section 15400, located online at: https://www.dfps.state.tx.us/handbooks/CPS/Files/CPS_pg_x15000.asp#CPS_15410

•   Education for Children Resource Guide, available at: http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/handbooks/CPS/Resource_Guides/Education_Resource_Guide.pdf.

5. Confidentiality of Education Records

The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) allows for release of student records between school districts without parental consent in compliance with a court order upon enrollment in the receiving school. 20 U.S.C. § 1232g.[28]

The Uninterrupted Scholars Act of 2013 amended FERPA to permit caseworkers and other child welfare or tribal organization representatives to access personally identifiable student information without parental consent and allows for disclosure of student records pursuant to a judicial order related to a child welfare proceeding without further notice to the parent. 20 U.S.C. § 1232g (b)(2)(B).[29]

The Uninterrupted Scholars Act provisions also apply to special education-related records for children ages birth to 21 with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Parts B and C, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400 et seq.[30]

6. Collection of State-Level Education Data

TEA collects data through PEIMS regarding the foster care status of students. Tex. Educ. Code § 7.029(b-1). In addition, DFPS provides child-level data on a yearly basis to TEA and TEA performs a data match to ascertain, on an aggregate level, how students in foster care are faring educationally. Tex. Educ. Code § 7.029(a).

7. Credit Transfer and Recovery

In recognition of the challenges facing students in foster care, TEA is now required to develop policies and procedures to address:

•   Awarding credit, including partial credit if appropriate, for course work, including electives, completed by a student in substitute care while enrolled at another school, Tex. Educ. Code § 25.007(b)(3);

•   Allowing a student in substitute care who was previously enrolled in a course required for graduation the opportunity, to the extent practicable, to complete the course, at no cost to the student, before the beginning of the next school year, Tex. Educ. Code § 25.007(b)(10); and

•   Ensuring that a student in substitute care who is not likely to receive a high school diploma before the 5th school year following the student’s enrollment in grade 9, as determined by the district, has the student’s course credit accrual and personal graduation plan reviewed. Tex. Educ. Code § 25.007(b)(11).

School districts must make credit by examination available, at any point during the school year, to students in foster care. 19 Tex. Admin. Code § 74.24(a)(2). Credits earned towards state graduation requirements in an accredited school district are transferable and must be accepted by another school district in the state. 19 Tex. Admin. Code § 74.26(a)(1). A school district shall award credit proportionately to a student in substitute care who successfully completes only one semester of a two-semester course. 19 Tex. Admin. Code § 74.26(e).