By KRIS GONZALEZ, Fort Jackson LeaderMay 20, 2010
FORT JACKSON, SC -- One thing is certain for military families - a permanent change of duty station is always around the corner.
And for families with school age children, the typical stresses of packing, relocating and leaving behind family and friends, are compounded by the complexities of enrolling their children in new schools.
Lawmakers from South Carolina are working on legislation that would help alleviate some of the barriers military children must negotiate to earn a high school diploma, and some students may see the benefits as early as the next school year.
State representatives are working on a bill that would activate the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, making the transition between schools easier for military children moving to and from South Carolina.
The bill was passed by the state Senate last Spring and currently resides in the House Committee on Education and Public Works as panel members contemplate the costs of joining the compact.
If the House eventually passes the legislation and it is subsequently signed into law, South Carolina would be among 32 states that have joined the compact, in an attempt to provide equal educational opportunities for military children.
"The compact is an agreement among states to work together to minimize school disruption for military children during transition and deployment," said Kevin Bruch, southeast regional liaison for Military Family Quality of Life. "It provides a uniform policy to resolve challenges military children face when moving between school systems."
"The parents and students, when transitioning from one state to the next, would have a better understanding of what to expect when they get to their new location," Bruch told
Fort Jackson educators and parents during an informational meeting regarding the compact earlier this week at C.C. Pinckney Elementary School.
Military children are often at a disadvantage for meeting school and extracurricular enrollment deadlines as well as various credit requirements as they transition between schools from state to state.
For some children, those disadvantages could prevent them from entering specific grade levels, participating in specialty or honors classes, extracurricular activities and sports - or at worst - graduate.
The compact addresses four categories of concern for military families: enrollment, placement and attendance, eligibility and graduation. It consists of nine articles that deal with issues military children encounter in grades as early as kindergarten all the way to their senior year in high school.
The articles would allow for the following provisions:
1. Parents would be given temporary transcripts that the new schools would be required to use for student placement pending the arrival of official records, which must be sent within 10 days of a request from the receiving school.
2. Students would be given 30 days to get required immunizations in the new state, with the exception of the tuberculosis skin test, which because it is a test and not a vaccine, would have to be completed according to the new state's enrollment requirements.
3. Students would be placed in their current grades, regardless of age requirements for kindergarten or other grades in the new state, as long as the student was already enrolled in school at their previous location. This rule would not apply to students who had never been enrolled in school.
4. Students who do not meet graduation requirements in a new state may walk with their peers during a graduation ceremony, but be awarded diplomas from the previous state if they meet that state's graduation requirements.
5. Honor students would be placed in similar programs and courses, if available. This rule would not preclude the new schools from doing subsequent testing on their own to assess whether the child meets the course requirements.
6. Special education students would receive the same services identified in their Individual Education Plans, if those services are available at the new school. The receiving school may also re-evaluate the students and their IEPs to ensure appropriate placement.
7. Local education agencies would have the flexibility to waive program prerequisites, coursework and exams if similar coursework has been completed or exams have been taken.
8. Students would be allowed a specific number of additional excused abscenses, typically five, to visit parents or guardians before or after deployment.
9. Students would be afforded the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities or sports regardless of deadlines, provided they are qualified and there are spaces available.
The compact would apply to children of active duty military members, including activated members of the National Guard and Reserve and those severely injured, medically discharged or retired for a period of one year after separation. It would also apply to children of service members who died while on active duty for up to one year after death.
For more information visit www.USA4MilitaryFamilies.dod.mil or contact Kevin Bruch at 843-327-9939 or Kbruch@sc.rr.com.