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School districts have 10 days to dispute notice of financial responsibility for foster care tuition
March 1, 2021
In recent years, the commissioner of education and the courts have been called upon to decide a number of disputes involving who must bear the cost of instruction of students placed in foster care. The relevant statute, Education Law section 3202(4)(f), requires social services agencies to determine the student’s “school district of origin,” then send a letter assigning financial responsibility to that district.
In many cases, a failure to respond to such letters within 10 days has resulted in school districts paying tuition for foster care students placed in other school districts, with no opportunity to dispute the facts. Patterns in commissioner’s decisions make it clear that it is important for school officials to be familiar with this law.
NYS law and foster care children
More than 8,000 students were admitted into foster care in New York State in 2019, according to the state Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS). In the 43% of cases located outside New York City, either OCFS or a county Department of Social Services enrolls the student in the foster family’s local school district. This “district of residence” is often different from the student’s “district of origin” as identified by the social services agency.
Upon enrollment, the social services agency is obligated by the law to send a letter to what it believes to be the school district of origin (let’s call it District A) stating it will have to pay tuition for the child at their new school in District B (the district of residence).