DoD Urges Education Officials to Work with Local Businesses
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 19, 2007 Local education officials should seek partnerships with chambers of commerce and other business organizations to explain the financial needs of schools that serve students from military families, a senior Defense Department official said here today.
“All possible partners” should be engaged when addressing the needs of schools that educate students from military families, Leslye A. Arsht, deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy, said in remarks to members of the National Military Impacted Schools Association.
Many school districts in the United States serving students from military families are eligible to receive federal payments, called impact aid, that are used to offset the potential loss of property-tax revenue. Many military families live in military-provided housing that’s not subject to local property taxes, which are used to maintain schools. DoD has a separate impact aid program that augments the original federal program that was instituted in 1950.
However, community requirements for building new schools and renovating older facilities will likely become more acute in coming years as 2005 Base Realignment and Closure actions kick in, and thousands of U.S. troops and their families are redeployed from Europe to stateside locations, Arsht said.
In fact, more than 63,000 students from military families are expected to be moving to local school systems in the United States through 2011, according to DoD documents.
It’s therefore prudent that local school officials and business leaders collaborate “to share innovative and successful ways to plan for quality education expansion,” Arsht explained.
Arsht said “a consensus of cooperation” was reached at the conclusion of a DoD-sponsored conference on education for military-connected communities that was held in Atlanta in November.
“Despite the challenges, we believe these significant (student) relocations offer an exceptional opportunity to strengthen our working relationships with the communities and schools that are the home to our military families,” Arsht said.
During visits to military communities around the country, Arsht said, she discovered schools “eager to share innovative and collaborative ways” to provide a quality education.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement “is a valuable partner,” Arsht said, that can identify educational resources in addition to impact aid.
The Department of Defense Education Activity also provides useful information and ideas to school districts that will be affected by 2005 BRAC actions or troop redeployments, Arsht said.
“We are really looking at ways to interact with you as we seek best practices,” DoDEA Director Joseph D. Tafoya told he audience. For example, DoDEA is inviting Hawaiian public school teachers to attend a DoDEA-sponsored mathematics training seminar that’s slated to be conducted in Honolulu this summer, Tafoya said.
The nationwide Military Impacted Schools Association also partners with DoD’s America Supports You program, which is an ongoing, nationwide program connecting America’s support for the troops to the men and women of the armed forces and their families.
John Deegan, MISA’s chief executive officer and just-named president of the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools, MISA’s umbrella organization, attended today’s meeting. He said in a recent news release that MISA is proud to be a part of America Supports You.
America Supports You “continues to demonstrate the importance of the role our military families play each day to defend our nation,” Deegan stated.