DoD, Department of Education Sign Agreement
June 30, 2008
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 30, 2008) - Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England and Deputy Secretary of Education Raymond Simon signed an agreement at the Pentagon Wednesday to work together to ease transition challenges for military children.
The Memorandum of Understanding formalizes the partnership between the two agencies. The agreement is designed to establish a collaborative framework between the Department of Defense and the Department of Education to address the unique challenges military children face as they transition from one school to another as their parents are assigned to different installations.
"We have a long-standing, positive working relationship with the Department of Education," said England. "The on-going 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."
England said his children are products of the public school system and that he graduated from the University of Maryland.
"I will tell you something about our magnificent men and women who serve this great nation," England said. "They will give their lives and limbs for their country; they will not sacrifice their children."
He said children of military members have the right to an outstanding education and will not relocate where they don't have good schools.
"That is where they draw the line and they are right," England said. "Their children deserve to have a good education and so we have an obligation both as a department and as a nation to make sure not just the children of the military, but frankly all the children of the United States of America get the absolutely finest education."
Thousands of military students are moving as a result of base realignment and closure, as a result of 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.
In his opening remarks, Deputy Secretary of Education Raymond Simon talked about his participation in a school accreditation process in Germany and a meeting of the advisory council on military dependents education he attended.
"The one thing I took away from that meeting was the absolute commitment from command and senior leadership of our Armed Forces for a quality education for their children," he said. "That commitment included the personal attendance, for several hours, of the commanding general of the U.S. Army in Europe. For him and for the other commanders present, access to the finest schools with the most outstanding teachers for their children was non-negotiable."
Five children participated in the signing ceremony. Jhendayi Bryant, Aaron Naquin, Rebekkah Orrell, Daniel Lind and Justyce Graves recited the Pledge of Allegiance as their parents looked on.
"It is a great honor to be here, said Maj. Gregory Orrell, Rebekkah's father. "I think this is really special for my daughter to see something that will affect her for most of her school years, especially with the amount of times that I will move in my career. This is something that will affect her life."
Rebekkah said it was fun and she was excited.
"The agreement we sign today will honor that commitment and honor the sacrifices these families make every day," Simon said. "By working more closely together, by working smarter together we can help ensure that the unique needs of these children to learn and have access to first-class teacher and support programs are more fully met, no matter where in the world they are deployed."
(Margaret McKenzie writes for the Family and MWR Command Public Affairs Office.)