Local: Education

D.C. considers bill to benefit military children

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Photo - D.C. is considering a bill to join the Military Interstate Children's Compact Commission. (Examiner file photo)
D.C. is considering a bill to join the Military Interstate Children's Compact Commission. (Examiner file photo)
Local,DC,Education,Lisa Gartner

D.C. schools Superintendent Hosanna Mahaley knows the drill: Her husband was a military officer, and so her eldest daughter has attended eight schools.

And in just three months at Leckie Elementary School in Southwest D.C., across the freeway from Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, 50 students transferred out as their parents were relocated to other bases. Others enrolled, as their own active-duty mothers and fathers were sent to the base.

"It's a constant influx of students leaving and a constant influx of students coming in," said Principal Jermall Wright.

The District is considering a bill to join the Military Interstate Children's Compact Commission, currently comprised of 43 states including Maryland and Virginia. It ensures that children of active-duty military officers are accommodated and afforded smooth transitions when they move from state to state and school to school.

For students who transfer in their senior year of high school, that might mean taking a test other than the state's exit exam, and being given flexibility with course requirements so that they could graduate on time. Children in honors or gifted programs, or special education students or English-language learners, would be allowed to continue in those programs, though their new schools could re-evaluate them after they enrolled.

There are 763 students in the District with active-duty military parents, plus about 400 children of National Guard members who could become active. Thousands more children have active-duty parents who work in the District but live in Maryland or Virginia and send their children to school there.

The bill is not exactly controversial: At a D.C. Council hearing on Thursday, Mahaley said DC Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson and Public Charter School Board Executive Director Scott Pearson have pledged their support, while the city can easily cover the $2,000 in annual membership fees to the commission. And no D.C. Council members joined Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who presided over the hearing, on the dais to voice any concerns.

Joining the commission would require some work by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, Mahaley acknowledged. The city would have to identify where military children were enrolled and what specific problems they were encountering, as well as establish a commission and appoint a education liaison to military families.

Thomas Hinton, senior state liaison for the Department of Defense, said he has seen even grizzled veterans choke back sobs because of the challenges their children faced constantly changing schools: transcripts that are never sent or sports and clubs that are limited because a student shows up midyear.

"It is a readiness isue for the Department of Defense. We know if good people are hurting as they sit around the dinner table, they are going to get out of the military in deference to their families," Hinton said.

lgartner@washingtonexaminer.com

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