Senior leaders in the Department of Defense and Department of Education signed a formal memorandum today at the Pentagon, agreeing to work collaboratively to ease the challenges of transitions for military dependent students. The document is the culmination of many years of informal partnering between the agencies.
The memorandum of understanding is designed to establish a framework for collaboration between the Department of Defense and the Department of Education to address the quality of education and the unique challenges faced by children of military families.
In general terms, the memorandum will serve as the basis on which the two departments will work together to strengthen and expand school-based efforts to ease student transitions, help military students develop academic skills that will last a lifetime and coping skills to help during deployment periods. The departments will work in concert to address five specific areas: quality education, student transition and support when a parent is deployed, data sharing, communication and outreach, and resources.
A working group, co-chaired by representatives of the two departments, will meet periodically to accomplish the stated goals of the memorandum.
“We have a long-standing, positive working relationship with the Department of Education. The ongoing relocation within the Department of Defense has created an urgent need to enrich and expand this relationship and other partnerships with military connected communities to ensure the best possible educational opportunities for military students. This memorandum of understanding strengthens that partnership,” said Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England, who signed the document on behalf of the Department of Defense.
In the next few years, thousands of military students will relocate as part of base realignment and closure, global rebasing and other force-structure changes. Of the 1.2 million school-age military students, only 8 percent attend DoD schools; the remaining 92 percent attend America's public, charter, private, independent and parochial schools across the nation. Some are home-schooled.
The rebasing impact provides an opportunity for the departments of Defense and Education to support local education activities and military communities in pursuit of quality education through the examination and sharing of successful educational options and best practices.
“We are committed to working together to create, expand, and improve quality education opportunities and to share best practices,” said Deputy Secretary of Education Raymond Simon, the Department of Education signatory. “Our two departments are building on terrific efforts of many dedicated organizations with a goal of sharing information and capitalizing on the resources aimed at quality educational opportunities.”
The memorandum is designed to be broad and comprehensive. It doesn’t require nor mandate any actions on the part of any of the participants, especially local school districts, England said. The goal is to provide a framework and focus for collaborative efforts between the departments. The real work of this effort will take place in small working groups which will be made up of representatives from both agencies and the local education community.
“Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines deserve the best educational opportunities for their families,” England said. “We ask so much of them – dedication, selfless service, frequent transfers and deployments away from the ones they love – all in the name of protecting our nation and its interests. As we look to the future, we need to ensure the promise of quality education is kept; this agreement moves us further in that direction.”