The governor of Illinois signed the Educational Opportunity for Military Children Act into law today during a formal ceremony. Gen. Duncan J. McNabb, the commander of the U.S. Transportation Command, served as host for Gov. Pat Quinn's visit.
The law is designed to make it easier for military families with school-aged children to transition to and from various schools.
With the governor's signature, Illinois also becomes the 35th state to join the nationwide Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.
DARTThe Council of State Governments, education and military family experts, and Department of Defense officials developed the interstate compact. States that sign on to the compact agree to work collectively with other compact states to create uniform standards of practice regarding the transfer of records, course placement, graduation requirements, redundant or missed testing, entrance-age variations and other transition issues.
"Governor Quinn, this is an especially great day for the state of Illinois, the 35th state to sign this military education compact," Gen. McNabb said. "It is also a great day for Scott Air Force Base to have you here to actually put pen to paper and make this compact a reality."
The governor followed General McNabb at the podium.
"In our state of Illinois, we had to adjust the law to make sure that the children of our heroic servicemembers would not be penalized in any way shape or form because their mom or dad is traveling and mobilized across the country and across the world," Governor Quinn said. "That's what the interstate compact is all about."
"Military families sacrifice a great deal in service to our nation when their loved one serves," said Dr. Cynthia Doil, the Scott AFB school liaison officer. "Military children oftentimes pay the greatest price. They transfer from school system to school system oftentimes losing credits for courses taken, their grade point averages often suffer, and they constantly face the unknowns of their class rank as well as their ability to qualify for advanced placement classes.
"The Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children legalizes to a great extent that which many of us have been advocating for many years," Doctor Doil said, "to level the playing field for our highly mobile children."
Wendy Bence and her husband, Col. Christopher Bence, have moved their family 13 times in 23 years. They have been following the compact's progress.
"Children of military families change school systems an average of nine times, from kindergarten to senior high school year," Mrs. Bence said. "By signing the compact, it ensures, at local levels, that the children of military families are afforded the same opportunities for educational success as other children and are not penalized or delayed in achieving their education. The compact will benefit students entering as well as leaving Illinois."
Chief Master Sgt. Penny Boggis has been stationed at Scott AFB for two years.
Her daughter, Kelsey, was required to take classes she had already accomplished at past schools and receive seven immunizations in the same day in order to start school on time, Chief Boggis said.
Kelsey said a friend, who arrived here at the same time, with nearly an identical school history at the same Colorado high school, but attended a different Illinois school, was required to attend summer school for two years to meet graduation requirements.
"This is a big step forward in how we support the education of military children at Scott Air Force Base and across Illinois," Chief Boggis said. "The Interstate Compact will hopefully provide for more flexibility in accepting test scores, grades and coursework from previous out-of-state schools and enable students transferring in to Scott AFB to continue their education without undue disruption and stress. Well done Illinois. Thank you."
Dr. Nancy Gibson, the superintendent of O'Fallon School District 90, first attended a strategic planning meeting with DOD and Department of Education officials a few years ago, when she learned of issues presented to military families who must move often.
"Some of the barriers that prevent an easy transition could be eliminated or reduced by furthering the understanding of what these issues are," Doctor Gibson said. "And I have come to understand that.
"I am the superintendent of the elementary district in O'Fallon and we have many military families and children in our school district," Doctor Gibson continued. "So I think this legislation is very important. I think it will help eliminate some of the artificial barriers that are present and make moves for military families a lot easier."
Visit the Council of State Governments website to see which states have yet to sign the compact.