Thursday, March 7, 2013

COMMENTARY>>Education bill for military children passes

By 2nd Lt Amanda Porter
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

A new education bill passed March 5 after an official ceremony in Little Rock, easing transitions for military children who frequently move because of their families’ service.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe signed the bill Tuesday, marking Arkansas as the 44th state to adopt the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.

The compact’s purpose is to remove barriers to educational progress for military children because of frequent moves and deployments of their parents.

State Sen. Eddie Jo Williams, the bill’s sponsor, Larry Biernacki, Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council president, and Col. Brian Robinson, Little Rock AFB commander, attended the ceremony at the governor’s mansion in support of the bill.

“The adoption of this education compact further signifies the outstanding relationship between Little Rock Air Force and the community,” said Robinson. “Addressing the needs of Airman and their families remains of utmost concern to our leaders. The compact will help overcome obstacles that military parents have been facing and ensure their children get the continuation and quality education they deserve.”

Transitions from state to state are a fact of life for military families and their children. According to a study by the Council of State Governments, the average military student faces transition challenges more than twice during high school, and most military children will have six to nine different school systems in their lives from kindergarten to 12th grade.

The study further demonstrated, among many specific impacts with regards to transitions between school systems, students have suffered incorrect placement due to transfer of records, redundant or missed entrance/exit testing and even delayed graduation.

To minimize additional struggles in children’s educational development, the compact in a comprehensive policy approach leverages consistency, allowing continuous and uninterrupted educations process, as well as equal or better quality education programs.

Military families face four key issues with interstate transitions – eligibility, enrollment, placement and graduation. The newly adopted compact provides the following solutions:

1. The compact requires schools to share student records in a timely manner in order to expedite the proper enrollment and placement of students. Moreover, students shall continue their enrollment at the grade level in the receiving state commensurate with their grade level from the sending state, barring a new enrollment in Kindergarten.

2. In accordance with the new compact, local education agencies shall be prohibited from charging local tuition to a child placed in the care of a non-custodial parent (deployments), as well as facilitate an equal opportunity for military children’s inclusion in extracurricular activities to the extent they are otherwise qualified.

3. When a student transfers before or during a school year, the compact require the receiving state initially honor placement of the student in available courses based on the student’s enrollment in the sending state school and/or educational assessments conducted at the sending state school.

4. The compact mandates that local education agency administrative officials shall waive specific courses required for graduation if similar course work has been satisfactorily completed in another local education agency or shall provide reasonable justification for denial.

Children of active-duty members of all the uniformed services, National Guard and Reserve on active duty orders and members or veterans, who are medically discharged or retired for one year, are eligible for assistance under the compact.

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