Education Support for Military Families: As Parents Move from One Military Installation to Another, Their Children Face Major Transition Issues. an Interstate Compact Now Smooths the Way for Students to Change Schools

Article excerpt

As the phone in the superintendent's office is answered, a frustrated parent's voice calls out for help: "I am an exhausted military spouse who just arrived here at Fort Irwin from Fort Hood, Texas, and I have been told by one of your school principals that I can't enroll my child until the official school records arrive here from Fort Hood. By the time those records arrive, my child will already be three weeks behind in her subjects. Can you help me?"

In California, there are approximately 93,750 military children, second to only Texas. According to the Department of Defense, about 1.5 million children of military families attend schools other than those sponsored by the Department of Defense.

The average military family moves between six and nine times between kindergarten and high school graduation. As their parents move from one military installation to another, children often face transition issues of their own. School records and Advanced Placement courses are not the only problems. Military children must cope with the stress of frequent moves, making new friends and leaving others behind. They have to become acquainted with new schools at awkward times and work out the details as they see their parents march off to another assignment, sometimes war.

The Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University has stated that "multiple relocations, as well as separation anxiety when parents are deployed, often play a role in military children's school performance" (Washington Times, May 21, 2009). Since our country has been at war for eight years in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Department of Defense reports that more that 700,000 children have been affected--left with a single parent or another relative while a parent deploys.

California joins the Interstate Compact

With the signing of the Interstate Compact in 2009, Gov. Schwarzenegger has taken a giant step to help reduce the tremendous turmoil that military families deal with as they transition from one installation to another; from one state to another. The signing of this legislation will lead to change at the state and local levels and ensure that California's military children are afforded the same opportunities and educational success as their counterparts. Twenty-four states had adopted the Interstate Compact before California finally joined the effort. Each state must be willing to adopt the Compact through legislation, as participation is completely voluntary.

Military families encounter a host of challenges when dealing with school enrollment, eligibility, graduation or placement due to the frequent relocations in the course of service to our nation. The Compact addresses some of their problems and allows for a uniform treatment of these issues at the state and local district level.

The Council of State Governments, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Defense, drafted the Interstate Compact to address the educational transition issues for military families. Since July of 2006, CSG has been working with federal, state and local officials representing educational groups and military families to create the interstate agreement. The Compact provides a detailed governance structure at both the state and national levels with built-in enforcement and compliance mechanisms (see "Provisions of the interstate education compact" at right).

Reducing bureaucratic barriers

Rather than having states operating under an interstate agreement without any national coordination, an Interstate Commission was created to provide a venue for solving issues and disputes. The Commission provides general oversight of the agreement, creates and enforces rules governing the Compact's operations, and promotes training and compliance with the Compact's requirements.

The Commission maintains various policy and operations committees, with each state allowed one vote. With this enforcement capacity, the Compact can be used to force states and districts to comply for the good of military children. …