Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Why Do Republicans Support War and Then Forget About Military Families?

An Interstate Compact for Military Family would standardize the school transfers of students of military families. This will resolve complications that many military families regularly face. Our Defense needs calls for frequent re-stationing of soldiers. This uproots their families. We owe our soldiers and their families reassurances that we will ease these readjustments their children face in transferring between schools.

Military students should be under a standardized educational of school records. While each state has separate records processes they think are best for their citizens, we need to recognize that students in military families often are only temporary students in any state’s school system. These students are emerging with incomprehensible school records mismatched from multiple record systems. This further complicates subsequent placements of students into new school systems. We need schools to instead provide the best education offerings for each student, including students of military families. This compact will allow these students to face the same rules of graduation requirements and course placement as all military family students have.

Students from military families have been told they can’t graduate because the state they took classes at one state aren’t accepted at the school district they moved into. Or they took do not meet the course requirements at their new school, something one can’t predict and plan for. This compact will solve these problems.

This is something we can do for our soldiers and make their lives less complicated. This is something we can do for ourselves, as sometimes people decide against military careers knowing the hardships it places on their children and their educations. It is something we can do for the students who will benefit the most from this compact’s work.
Why is this bill important? Many of us remember the military kids who were in our classes. Maybe some of you were military students. Their parents were career military, or perhaps even in short term enlistments, and suddenly there were gone from your classes. The military needed a parent to be elsewhere, and the children went were the military told them to go. The students who suddenly disappeared or who suddenly appeared in your classes, often in the middle of the year, went to or came from other schools. Often you noticed these students were in the wrong classes. Maybe they’ve already had this material, or perhaps they overwhelmed by what the teacher was saying. Eventually the teacher would announce they received information from the previous school and that student was moved into another class, yet much time had been wasted on that kid being in the wrong room.
Maybe you saw one of these kids your senior year. They like you were about to complete four years of high school, yet maybe there was a certain requirement your school had that their school didn’t. Maybe someone should have pointed this out to the student so the student could have enrolled in that class needed to graduate. Or maybe there wasn’t time to complete the requirement, yet maybe there was something the student had taken could have counted as fulfilling that graduation requirement. Yet, you graduated and the military student was left behind. Wouldn’t it have been better if that kid could have graduated with you, or at least have gotten a diploma issued from his or her previous school?
This bill was developed with the cooperation of the Council on State Governments and has been awarded a Best Practices designation by the National Governors Association. It will create uniform and speedy reporting amongst states joining this compact of school information regarding a student with an active duty military personnel parent. This includes the Reserves and the National Guard. The student information will be for those in kindergarten through 12th grade. The student information to be uniformly shared will be information assisting school district administrators in properly placing these students into their correct courses. State immunization requirements would remain in effect. Students would receive recognition in their new schools for any advance placement and honors work completed. The new school district would have a right to evaluate that previous achievement has been obtained and that the student is enrolled in the right programs and courses.

This compact will allow a military student to graduate if comparable previous work satisfies the graduation requirements in a new school district. A school district will work with a student to enable the student to graduate on time. An exit exam or end of course exam passed in one state would be accepted in other Compact states. A military student who transfers during senior year who is unable to match past work with the graduation requirements at a new school would be able to graduate with a diploma from the previous school.

The compact will work with each member state and seek means to make these military student transfers occur quickly and accurately. It will collect and exchange data and information on these transfers. There are already eleven states that have joined this compact. They are Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, and Oklahoma. This compact is beginning to meet and should be operational within a few months. Should we join this compact and for some reason change our minds, states are permitted to leave this compact.
A State Council on Interstate Educational Opportunity for Military Children would be created if this bill becomes law. States are required by the Compact to have statewide councils.

Compacts between states have existed since Colonial days. There are approximately 200 compacts with each state belonging to about 25 compacts. Compacts are useful to states in thwarting future Federal government grabs at states’ authorities. This compact proposal is an excellent way to demonstrate our commitment to making military student school transfers occur in the best interests of these students.
The Defense Department estimates the additional costs of complying with the goals of this Compact will be approximately one dollar per military student transfer. On average about one fourth of these students transfer annually so total costs of compliance across a state should be under $5,000. If opponents complain that it will cost more because school officials will be forced to take the time to consider what education path is best for military transfer students, my response is it already is the responsibility of school administrators to take the time to consider what educational path is best for all their students.
The Council of State Government estimates that the annual cost of the Compact itself will be under $650,000 which will be split among member states. This is a low cost investment in improving the education futures of students and helping our military families.


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