Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunities for Military Children

My daughter started Kindergarten when she was just 4. She’s not particularly gifted (well, I think she is but I’m biased) but the state we live in has a very relaxed age requirement for children starting Kindergarten. She she started when she was just 4. When we get ready to leave this state and move to another state, my daughter faces the possibility that the new school she will start at might very well hold her back for no reason other than her age.

Never mind the fact that she can read at a 5th grade level (she’s in 2nd grade). Never mind the fact that she is doing just fine in 2nd grade math, language arts, social studies, and science. But because she did not turn 7 until several months into the school year this year, she could be placed a grade back. Military students face this possibility, and many others just like it, every day.

Thankfully there exists a piece of legislation aimed at easing transitions for military children switching schools. The Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children adheres to an armed forces adage: Recruit the servicemember, but retain the family.

Developed by the Council of State Governments, education experts and the Defense Department, the Compact on Education Transition for Military Children addresses common problems that affect military students as a result of frequent moves and deployments.

According to the Council on State Governments,

Military families move between postings on a regular basis. While reassignments can often be a boon for career personnel, they often wreak havoc on the children of military families. Issues these children face include: losing and making new friends, adjusting to new cities and bases, and changing schools. While the armed services have taken great leaps to ease the transition of personnel, their spouses and most importantly children, much remains to be done at the state and local levels to ensure that the children of military families are afforded the same opportunities for educational success as other children and are not penalized or delayed in achieving their educational goals by inflexible administrative and bureaucratic practices.

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. With more than half of all military personnel supporting families, the impacts of reassignment and long deployments are key considerations when making long-term life choices.

 

Specific impacts on military children include:

  • Transfer of Records
  • Course Sequencing
  • Graduation Requirements
  • Exclusion from Extra-Curricular Activities
  • Redundant or Missed Entrance/Exit Testing
  • Kindergarten and First Grade Entrance Age Variations
  • Power of Custodial Parents While Parents are Deployed

The new Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children addresses these issues, as well as compact enforcement, administration, finances, communications, data sharing and training.

Specifically, the compact will address four key areas:

  • Enrollment
  • Placement
  • Eligibility
  • Graduation Requirements

Compacts such as this one are the most powerful, durable, and adaptive tool for ensuring cooperative action among states. The develop and enforce standards while providing an adaptive structure that can evolve to meet new and increased demands over time. Unlike federal solutions that often dictate unfunded mandates, interstate compacts provide a state-developed structure for collaborative and dynamic action and can often preempt federal interference.

This compact became active when the 10th state enacted it. Currently, there are 11 states that have enacted this compact:

  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma

It has passed one chamber of legislature in four more states and will be considered by at least six more in 2009.

Should you like to learn more about this compact, I would encourage you to watch the video that the Council of State Governments has up – it is incredibly informative. And if your state has not yet already enacted this compact, I would highly encourage you to learn more about this compact and to contact your state representatives and urge them to do so.

Military Spouse Residency Relief Act

Currently there is a resolution (http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h110-6070) making it’s way through the House of Representatives that is designed to expand residence rules to military spouses. The bill, the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act, would let military spouses claim the same state of legal residence as their military sponsors regardless of where they are stationed when they move on permanent change-of-station orders. This bill would amend the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act to allow spouses the same provisions as their service members regarding aspects such as voting in their home of record, keeping a driver’s license in the home of record, and paying personal property taxes and state income taxes in the home of record.

According to the Army Times,

“As currently written, the SCRA allows military members to claim a state of legal residence and maintain that home throughout their career, regardless of where they move. This can be the state in which the member lived before entering the service, or a state that the service member has lived in at some time and intends to return to after leaving the military. This allows some tax relief, and makes it easier to move from one state to another.

In many cases, spouses choose not to be listed on the titles of their cars so that the car can be listed in the service members’ home of record.”

This bill, if it passes the Senate, will apply the same rules of residency to military spouses that currently apply to their active duty service member (so you would no longer have to worry about changing your driver’s license, vehicle registration, voter’s registration, etc., every time you move). Military spouses, like service members, simply go where the military tells them to go. The hardships associated with these frequent moves should be alleviated by Congress, not perpetuated. However the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act is currently being challenged by the DoD as it is being considered by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. If this bill does not get approved by the VA Committee, it will never get voted on in the Senate and thus never become law.

This is your chance to make a difference and to be heard. Please call the Senators that are sitting on the VA Committee. Ask to speak with their legislative aide about the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act. Tell them that “the committee needs to support the Carter Military Spouse language.” For some reason, the DoD does not believe that military spouses should have the same residency protections that service members do.

It will not cost the federal government anything to make this bill a law. It will not cost the Department of Defense anything. All that military spouses are asking for is a reprieve from the practical and financial burdens of having to change their state of residence every time the military decides to move a family. In absence of that, the alternative is that the military should start giving married service members the option of staying at one duty station for his or her entire career. Since the latter is unlikely to happen, then the federal government should at least move to provide us with the same legal protections it provides our service members since we are no more immune to the change of duty stations than he or she is (absent divorcing or separating).

Please contact the Senators on the VA Committee and urge them to pass this bill:

Akaka, Daniel K.- (D – HI) (202) 224-6361
Aide: Lisa F.
Brown, Sherrod- (D – OH) (202) 224-2315
Aide: Diane Wilkinson
Burr, Richard- (R – NC) (202) 224-3154
Aide: Kevin Tuess(??)
Craig, Larry E.- (R – ID) (202) 224-2752
Aide: Patrick (Nielman??)
Graham, Lindsey- (R – SC) (202) 224-5972
Aide: Adam Brake
Hutchison, Kay Bailey- (R – TX) 224-5922
Isakson, Johnny- (R – GA) (202) 224-3643
Aide: Lauren Walter (along with Houston Ernst)
Murray, Patty- (D – WA) (202) 224-2621
Aide: Joshua Jacobs
Obama, Barack- (D – IL) (202) 224-2854
Aide: Ruchi Bhowmik
Rockefeller, John D., IV- (D – WV) (202) 224-6472
Aide: Clete Johnson or Barbara Pryor
Sanders, Bernard- (I – VT) (202) 224-5141
Aide: Janko Mitric
Specter, Arlen- (R – PA) (202) 224-4254
Aide: Will Wagner
Tester, Jon- (D – MT) (202) 224-2644
Aide: James Wise
Webb, Jim- (D – VA) (202) 224-4024
Aide: William Edwards
Wicker, Roger F.- (R – MS) (202) 224-6253

Military Health System Asks Service Members and Their Families for Feedback

Military Health System Seeks Feedback

Military Health System officials want wounded, ill or injured servicemembers and their families to respond to a new pair of questionnaires designed to help them better understand the needs and expectations of the warriors in their care.

The questionnaires — one for wounded, ill or injured servicemembers and one for their family members — are available on the Military Health System Web site and will remain open for completion until Oct. 15. Both questionnaires ask for feedback concerning a servicemember’s experience and satisfaction with the care he or she has received since becoming wounded, ill or injured.

To encourage honest and specific answers that will lead to positive changes in how the MHS handles care for wounded, ill or injured servicemembers, officials said, all questionnaire responses are anonymous. Questionnaire results and analysis should be available on the Military Health System Web site in November.

These questionnaires are part of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ commitment to supporting wounded, ill and injured servicemembers and ensuring that their care is DoD’s top priority, officials said.

The online questionnaires are available at http://www.health.mil/Pages/Page.aspx?ID=18.

The Military Health System is a worldwide partnership of medical educators, medical researchers, and health care providers and their support personnel. The DoD enterprise consists of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs; the medical departments of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Joint Chiefs of Staff; the combatant command surgeons; and Tricare providers, including private-sector health care providers, hospitals and pharmacies.

(From a Military Health System news release.)