Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Concord) is the Chair of the Assembly’s Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance, and the first Calif. state legislator to unequivocally come out against the elimination of Foster Youth Services.
Whatever encouragement California foster care advocates felt after Governor Jerry Brown promised to make foster youth a priority in his sweeping plan to reform the Golden State’s public education system quickly evaporated when that plan, dubbed the “Local Control Funding Formula,” was revealed in January.
Among the many categorical funding streams that would be eliminated in the plan is Foster Youth Services (FYS), a program that has worked to improved educational outcomes for California’s 42,000 school-aged foster children since 1981. Since the revelation, advocates have grown increasingly frustrated by the lack of attention FYS has been getting in the much larger discussion of Gov. Brown’s plan.
But on March 27, Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Concord) Chair of the Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance, became the first state legislator to publicly announce that she wants to see Foster Youth Services saved from elimination.
“I have seen first hand the benefits that Foster Youth Services provide to students in Mt Diablo Unified School District,” Assemblywoman Bonilla said in an email sent to The Chronicle of Social Change. “Students receive academic support and encouragement which has dramatically increased their graduation rates. This is a proven and successful investment in the lives of our most at risk students and needs to be preserved outside of the LCFF as a program that revives dedicated funding.”
James Wogan, who oversees Foster Youth Services for Mt. Diablo Unified School District, wasn’t surprised that his local Assemblymember had been the first to step up. “No not at all, because she has always been a strong supporter of foster youth,” Wogan said.
He pointed to a Budget Subcommittee hearing earlier in the month. By the time a group of foster youth, including a handful from Mt. Diablo Unified, made it to the front of the long line of people waiting to give public comment after the hearing ended, a number of legislators had already left. But Bonilla was still there, listening attentively. After they spoke, some of the foster youth told Wogan: “she get’s us.”
“That is always how it has been with Susan,” he added.
“I hope others will follow suit,” Hahnel said. “I also hope school dsitricts will receive funding and be held accountable for the academic performance of students in foster care. We want both to preserve Foster Youth Services and have foster students included in the local control funding formula.”
– Daniel Heimpel is the founder of Fostering Media Connections and the Publisher of the Chronicle of Social Change.