By ROGER TEEL, 20th Support Command (CBRNE)March 13, 2009
With the intention of making life a bit easier for military children who relocate to new schools during a Family's permanent change of station, a senior noncommissioned officer from the 20th Support Command (CBRNE) testified before the Maryland state legislature in Annapolis Feb. 24 and 26.
Command Sgt. Maj. Sean Branham, who serves as 20th SUPCOM's senior operations NCO and was promoted to his current rank on the eve of his testimony, appeared before Maryland legislators as an advocate of the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.
The compact addresses a number of issues that confront military Families when they relocate from one state to another.
Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who is familiar with the military and served a tour during Operation Iraqi Freedom, sponsored the compact in the Maryland legislature.
According to the governor's press secretary, Mike Raia, the compact received the full support of the senate committee March 6.
"This is a very favorable piece of legislation," Raia said. "It's one of the governor's priority bills." He added that the compact must pass the full house and senate before going to the governor's desk for signature.
"It's looking very good. Once signed, the compact would be effective October first," Raia said.
"I believe Maryland will be the twelfth state to enact the compact," Branham said.
Military children change schools between six and nine times on average from the time they begin kindergarten and finish 12th grade.
The Pentagon believes the interstate compact will ease the transition between schools and eliminate duplicitous requirements from each state's education system. (See box for compact details.)
Branham said he thought the compact had been initiated by the Department of Defense in 2006.
"I think they asked me to take part because I had dealt with the school liaison officer on several issues here at Aberdeen when we PCS'd here," Branham said. "That experience plus the fact they were looking for someone to articulate some of the issues that we face and who could shed some light on issues in the compact was why I was chosen to take part," he added.
Jeanette Ortiz, policy director, Office of the Lieutenant Governor, said it was important for the lieutenant governor to have military parents share their personal experiences before the legislative committees voted on the bill.
"This past summer, Lieutenant Governor Brown attended the task force meeting at which Sergeant Major Branham spoke and heard firsthand about his experience with transitioning his children into Maryland schools," Ortiz said. "In addition, Sergeant Major Branham was recommended by several task force members. It is for these reasons that we asked him to speak on the administration's panel in support of the bill."
Helping military kids relocate
Details of compact
States would agree not to put military children at a disadvantage because of scheduling or sequencing changes between states.
Military children would get temporary transcripts, and their new schools would be required to use the temporary transcripts for class placement until official records arrive.
Military children would have 30 days to get required immunizations in a new state.
Transferring children would be placed in the grades they were in when they moved, even if their new state sets different age requirements for kindergarten or other grades.
High school students who do not meet graduation requirements in a new state can be awarded diplomas from the state where they lived previously if they meet that state's requirements.
Schools would honor membership in honor clubs such as Beta Club or National Honor Society.
Students enrolled in gifted or special education classes would be enrolled in an analogous program in their new school, though the new school could re-evaluate later whether the child meets requirements.
Schools would give military kids "additional excused absences" to see a parent on leave from a deployment