Defense, Education Departments Sign Pact on Military Children
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 25, 2008 Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England and Deputy Education Secretary Raymond Simon signed a memorandum of understanding between their agencies at the Pentagon today that addresses the quality of education and the unique challenges faced by children of military families.
Hundreds of thousands of students in military families will be affected by moves precipitated by recent Base Realignment and Closure Act decisions and the relocation of military units from overseas bases to stateside installations as part of global defense posture realignment moves, England said.
Children of U.S. military members who have sacrificed so much for the nation “deserve to have to a good education,” England said during his remarks before the signing ceremony.
“And so, we have an obligation, both as a department and as a nation, to make sure not just the children in our military, but all of the children in the United States of America get absolutely the finest education that they can,” the deputy defense secretary said.
The failure to provide a good education for America’s children could result in the forfeiture of the United States’ premier position in the world, England pointed out, as well as the loss of freedom for its citizens.
“So, I’m an extraordinary strong proponent of anything we do to improve the education of our children, especially the children of our military,” England said.
The memo of understanding generally defines how the Defense and Education departments will work together with local educational organizations to strengthen and expand school-based efforts to ease student transitions and help military students develop academic skills and coping strategies during parents’ military deployments.
Simon hailed the agreement, noting that its implementation will “honor the sacrifice that these families make every day.”
The agreement supports defense and education department efforts to:
-- Promote and enhance policies that will improve military children’s education and overall well-being;
-- Advance the quality of educational opportunities for all military children;
-- Provide research-based academic, social-emotional and behavioral supports to facilitate seamless transitions for military children;
-- Provide leadership and advocacy programs to help military students cope with issues surrounding deployments;
-- Support foreign language education, including programs for strategic languages;
-- Explore legislative options to address transition issues for military students;
-- Extend opportunities for student learning through support of online, virtual and other research-based teaching models;
-- Provide research-based teacher and administrator professional development programs;
-- Forge effective partnerships with local schools and districts;
-- Coordinate Defense Department and Education Department impact aid programs;
-- Communicate with military families and organizations to show appreciation for their contributions; and
-- Increase awareness of resources and tools available from the Education and Defense departments.
Congress has provided financial assistance to local school districts through the impact aid program since 1950. Current legislation provides financial assistance to school districts with concentrations of children residing on military bases who have parents in the military. Military families that reside in government-provided quarters do not pay local property taxes, a portion of which are used to manage and operate public schools.
More than 1.1 million students who belong to active duty and reserve-component military families are expected to benefit from activities outlined in the agreement.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael J. Naquin, a security forces noncommissioned officer posted at Bolling Air Force Base here, and his 6-year-old son, Aaron, were among several military families personally greeted by England and Simon at signing ceremony.
“Progress is being made, and it is nice that our two communities can come together as one,” Naquin said of the bi-departmental education agreement.
“It is one less worry, not having to worry about the education my children are getting,” Naquin pointed out, noting education is a “very, very important” component of quality of life.
A special panel will now begin work to implement the initiatives, David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said.
“We all have just one goal in mind, and that is to provide a quality education for the children of all military families,” Chu said.