Military school compact set for adoption in Oregon
(Ore.) Gov. John Kitzhaber is expected to sign legislation this week aimed at making it easier for children of military families to enroll and transfer after a move from one base to another.
With the anticipated action, Oregon would join 46 other states that are members of the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Families – a cooperative that began in 2008 to address such issues as eligibility, enrollment, placement and graduation requirements for children of these families.
Assuming Oregon joins, the only states still outside the compact are New York, New Hampshire and Minnesota – although lawmakers in each state are considering authorizing legislation as well.
The Interstate Compact, after adoption by state legislatures, applies to the children of:
• Active duty members of the uniformed services, including members of the National Guard and Reserve on active duty orders pursuant to 10 U.S.C §1209 and 1211;
• Members or veterans of the uniformed services who are severely injured and medically discharged or retired for a period of one year after medical discharge or retirement;
• Members of the uniformed services who die on active duty for a period of one year after death.
Although the transient nature of military life has been a reality for thousands of families going back decades, today’s ‘army brats’ on average attend six to nine different school systems from kindergarten to 12th grade.
Adding to the complexity is the emotional toil separation from parents during deployment can impose on K-12 students.
The compact, in general, serves as a vehicle for states to consider ways to lessen the challenges of military life on students. The compact consists of general policies in four key areas: eligibility, enrollment, placement and graduation.
One key issue that drove the initial cooperation rose from graduation requirements, where the “sending” state might have lower requirements than the “receiving state.”
First to adopt the Interstate Compact were Kansas and Kentucky – both of which have major military installations but, at the time, neither had graduation exit exams. Thus, students from both of those states, arriving as high school seniors in a state with graduation requirements, posed problems for local administrators.
According to a news brief published by Military OneSource, a website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense, a receiving school district in a state that has joined the compact must “initially honor placement of a student based on his or her enrollment in the sending state, provided the new school has a similar or equivalent program.”
Students can be evaluated by the receiving school after placement to ensure it is appropriate, but the school may not put children into “holding classes” while they await assessment.
The Oregon authorizing bill, SB 1506, passed unanimously out of both houses of the Legislature although there were some concerns over the cost. As part of the compact, member states pay $1 per eligible student, based on the number of children of active duty personnel formally announced by the Department of Defense each year.
Among the other issues covered by the compact, according to Military OneSource:
- Education records. When a family leaves a school district in a member state, the parents may receive a set of unofficial records to carry to the new school in another member state. It will include all the information the new school needs to enroll and place the child until they receive the official records. In addition, the compact requires all sending school districts within member states to send official transcripts within 10 days of a request from the receiving state school district.
- Immunizations. If a child transferring to a member state needs additional immunizations, he or she may enroll and begin school. Parents then have 30 days to see that the child gets the required immunizations. If further immunizations are required, they must be started within 30 calendar days of enrollment. Tuberculosis testing is not covered under the compact since the TB test is not an immunization but rather a health screening.
- Kindergarten and first grade entrance age. If the entrance age requirement in the new school system is different, transitioning children may continue in the same grade if they have already started kindergarten or first grade where the family was previously stationed. This provision also allows children to move up to first or second grade, regardless of age requirements, if they have completed kindergarten or first grade in another state.
- Course and education program placement. A receiving school district in a member state must initially honor placement of a student based on his or her enrollment in the sending state, provided the new school has a similar or equivalent program. Special education services. Students covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act receive the same services (although not necessarily identical programs) identified in the individual education plan from the sending state. This is a parallel requirement under federal law.
- Absence related to deployment activities. Students in member states may request additional, excused absences to visit with their parent or legal guardian immediately before, during and after deployment. Schools have flexibility in approving absences if there are competing circumstances such as state testing or if the student already has excessive absences.
- Enrollment. When a child of a deployed parent is staying with a non-custodial parent, a relative or a friend who is officially acting in place of the parents and lives outside of the home school district, the child may continue to attend his or her own school as long as the care provider ensures transportation to school. The compact also stipulates that a power of attorney for guardianship is sufficient for enrollment and all other actions requiring parental participation or consent.
- Extracurricular participation. When children transfer to a new school, their participation in extracurricular activities is facilitated – provided they're eligible – even if application deadlines and tryouts have passed. Schools must make reasonable accommodations but are not required to hold spaces open for military-related transferees.
- Course waivers. School districts in member states may waive courses required for graduation if similar coursework has been completed in another school. Such waivers are not mandatory under the compact, but a school district must show reasonable justification to deny a waiver.