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Speech

Speech Testimony of State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump in Support of Electronic Backpack Legislation

Bill Will Ensure Consistency of Youth Academic Records
12/06/2021
  • Office of the State Auditor

Media Contact for Testimony of State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump in Support of Electronic Backpack Legislation

Samantha Ormsby, Director of Communications

Image of Auditor Bump Testifying Before the Joint Committee

BOSTONTestimony as prepared for delivery:

Good afternoon Chairman Gomez, Chairman Finn, and members of the committee. I am pleased to join you today to testify in support of H.236, An Act Creating an Electronic Backpack for Foster Children. I want to thank Representative Khan and Representative LeBoeuf for introducing this important bill which I am proud to cosponsor.

Students in foster care face immense challenges. They often come from backgrounds with significant physical or emotional trauma. Many of these students have specialized educational needs. Their school transfer and dropout rates are much higher than these of the general student population. This has long-term consequences, as students who drop out of high school are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested in their lifetime, and more likely to rely on social service programs.

Through all of this, their educational challenges are often exacerbated by delays in new schools’ access to their academic records when a new placement necessitates a school transfer.

This bill will help to address this problem.

Under federal law, when a student in foster care arrives at the schoolhouse steps, the school must immediately enroll the student, even if they lack any knowledge of his or her educational needs or background.

The current inefficient system for transferring educational records means that administrators often place these students in academic settings that are not suited to meet their needs.  When you consider that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education estimates that approximately 45 percent of students in foster care require individualized education plans, the magnitude of this problem quickly becomes apparent.

As a Commonwealth, we have the technological capabilities to implement an electronic backpack system, which will allow for critical educational records to follow the student while they are in foster care. The implementation will allow for continued cooperation between the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education which is critical to success for these children.

We also have a model to follow in the many California counties that have already implemented such a system while taking into account natural concerns about privacy.

And we certainly have a moral responsibility to do everything we can to support the academic success of these students.

What we need is the will from the Legislature to make this program a reality. Our call has been supported locally by The Boston Globe along with many of your colleagues as co-sponsors.

We can't use technology to undo much of the damage that has been done to our children in foster care, to eliminate the trauma, to cure the pain -- physical and emotional -- that our children in foster care often suffer. We can't use technology to repair unstable families or even to find a new forever home for children in foster care, but we can use technology to provide better educational continuity for our children in foster care.

That’s why I ask that you support this important measure.

Thank you.

Media Contact for Testimony of State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump in Support of Electronic Backpack Legislation

Office of the State Auditor 

The Office of State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump (OSA) conducts audits, investigations, and studies to promote accountability and transparency, improve performance, and make government work better.
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