Take advantage of this law designed to support military children constantly on the move
By Kulia Petzoldt
In 2017, Michelle Obama and Jill Biden’s initiative Joining Forces worked with the public sector in all fifty states to ensure support for military-connected school aged children. The support became law with nationwide adoption of an Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children. Today, as military families emerge into a new landscape changed by the pandemic, the support provided by the Compact ensures schools are responsive to the unique needs of military-connected students.
The Compact addresses the experiences after PCS for military-connected students with requirements addressing enrollment, extracurriculars, and graduation. For example, a family on orders moving from Virginia to California may hand carry unofficial transcripts and enroll their child using those transcripts even if such an enrollment is otherwise against local policy. The child, newly enrolled in a California school, may begin classes in the grade level assigned in Virginia, even if the exact age requirements differ. If the child was placed in advanced math while in Virginia, they won’t be placed in a holding class, but are instead allowed in a similar or equivalent placement in their new California school.
Families impacted by the 2020 stop move order may not arrive in new duty stations until after extracurricular application and try-out deadlines have passed. Here again, the Compact requires a new school district to make reasonable accommodations for a military-connected school age child who played football in Hawaii, for example, to continue their participation at a new school in North Carolina.
A PCS move during a military-connected child’s senior year of high school can be a real strain, but again, the Compact ensures the student will graduate on time. If a student in Nebraska moves to Florida during her senior year, and the Florida school has graduation requirements that won’t be achievable without accommodation, the Florida and Nebraska schools must work together to award the student a diploma from the Nebraska school.
“Always begin interactions with school officials with the assumption that you are a team with the same goal,” advises Dr. Lesley Cook, a clinical psychologist and military spouse who trains parents, educators, and administrators on successful collaboration during 504 and IEP meetings. If a school has trouble complying with the Compact, each service provides school liaison officers trained in assisting military families with school related issues. In addition, military spouse entrepreneurs have innovated paid education advocacy services that support and empower parents through the process when communication breaks down between administrators and parents.
Military families are better off, thanks to the Compact, but the work of advocating for our families never ends. Thankfully, during a life lived subject to the DoD’s rules and regulations, we are uniquely qualified to take advantage of the nationwide policy developed to support our children.