Family Matters Blog: Interstate Compacts Ease School Transitions
By Vivian Greentree
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 4, 2012 Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal last month signed into law the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, known in the military community as “the compact.” The compact is designed to help ease the transition of military children as they move between school systems across the country. Because of the mobile lifestyle of military families, military children will attend, on average, six to nine different school systems before they graduate high school.
As they move between educational systems, which vary in requirements regarding things like records transfers, admission ages, testing, and graduation requirements, navigating the different curriculum requirements, grading scales, and course sequencing can lead to gaps in education. Other military-affiliated students will be excluded from extra-curricular activities or be delayed in graduation because of missing an entrance or exit test, redundant testing, or non-recognized coursework completed elsewhere.
These educational challenges often are compounded by anxieties about deployments. More than 2 million military children have had a parent deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan, and every school district in the country has military-connected children residing in them. That’s a lot to ask of our nation’s military children. We say that our children serve alongside our service members in their own ways. They miss their deployed parents and worry for their safety; they keenly feel the absence of a parent at birthdays, holidays, first soccer games, parent/teacher meetings, and many other milestone life events. They, without being asked, help shoulder the burden of what it means to be a modern-day military family.
Those of us who advocate on behalf of military families have supported the need to remove barriers to the educational success of our children in the form of this compact. No military child should be penalized or delayed in achieving their educational goals because of inflexible administrative practices. This compact allows for replacing the widely varying treatment of transitioning military-affiliated students into a unified approach that helps provide consistent policy.
As parents, we all want what is best for our children. And, as Blue Star Families’ military family lifestyle surveys show, concern for our children continuously is ranked as a top issue for military families. As the impact of family decisions resulting from cost to the family are key considerations in both recruitment and retention, it behooves federal, state, and local lawmakers to work together in ways that facilitate, rather than complicate, the transiency inherent in the military lifestyle.
Georgia is home to one of the country’s largest military populations, with about 90,000 military-affiliated students in Georgia’s school systems. As the Defense Department deems April the “Month of the Military Child,” it was fitting that the compact was adopted last month.
That it was signed a the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning is particularly appropriate, given that the installation resides within the district of Congressman Sanford Bishop, a co-chair of the House Military Family Caucus, who has travelled the country raising awareness of the unique challenges military families face after ten years of war. Later this summer, the Infantry Museum will again be filled with military families as Bishop and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, of Washington state, host a military family symposium there. Ret. Major General Jim Donald, chairman of the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, who introduced the governor at the ceremony, also has been a force for military families here in Georgia and is known to ask military spouses and parents to stand and be recognized at meetings. I know because he asked my mother to stand and be recognized when she wore a ‘Blue Star’ pin signifying my husband’s deployment to Iraq a few years ago.
Fewer than 1 percent of this nation currently serves in the armed forces, but it takes 100 percent of the country to support them. State governments stepping up to the plate to enact legislation that addresses issues affecting the military community -- veterans’ and military spouse employment and licensing issues, military child education, absentee voting, veterans treatment courts, and predatory lending -- is one very tangible way to support our military families.
Being in a military family has enriched and enlarged my life and my children’s lives in ways that are unfathomable and we are, I think, better for the experiences and sacrifices we make as part of something larger than ourselves. However, there are challenges that can be mitigated through the help of others – in this case in the recognition that military-affiliated students shouldn’t have to jump through ever-changing hoops to get a quality education. I applaud Georgia’s leadership for this tremendous accomplishment and thank those who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make it happen.