PA Law Supports Students Facing Graduation Barriers

By Emily Scott, Public News Service
For The Posts

HARRISBURG PA – A new Pennsylvania law, which provides direct support to students in the state who experience educational instability, can ensure they have a clear path to high school graduation.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday (Jan. 26, 2022) signed Senate Bill 324 into law. It offers graduation planning and a smoother transfer of academic credits, among other resources, to young people in Pennsylvania who are homeless, or who are part of the state foster care or juvenile justice systems.

Many students face challenges outside their control, according to Rachael Miller, policy director at Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children. “For example, changes in physical homes or moves between counties, and ultimately disruption in their education,” Miller said.

“The legislation really levels the playing field for disadvantaged youths who often experience poorer outcomes than their peers, based on these unique experiences,” Miller added. Only 75 percent of Pennsylvania kids in foster care receive their high school diploma or GED degree by age 21, 2018 data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation indicates.

The legislation also establishes point-of-contact persons for students. They will help coordinate classes, connect with mental health resources, and confirm that academic records and credits accurately transfer to their new school.

The same contacts also will ensure that social services agencies involved are at the table,” Miller explained. They’ll also ensure that a solid graduation plan is in place as students prepare for graduation so they have the opportunity to graduate on time.”

The law protects students from being penalized for their circumstances, such as situations in which they lack a school uniform, and that can waive fees required for extracurricular activities.

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