Adopting the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children is only the first step toward smoothing school transition issues for students whose parents are serving our country.
Implementation of the Compact at the district level, on the other hand, takes dedicated individuals who are committed to working with state lawmakers to ensure
that the provisions of the Compact are met. In early 2012, the California State Superintendent appointed Kate Wren Gavlak, superintendent of Travis Unified School District, as Interstate Compact Commissioner.
One of the primary goals for participants in the California Public Engagement event, held at USC last fall in partnership with the Military Child Education Coalition, was to make progress on implementation of the Compact as members of the Military Interstate Children's Compact Commission (MIC3).
Since the Engagement gathering, a number of significant developments have taken place, including the State Council holding two meetings and working to prepare a report that is due to the state legislature.
"I am very encouraged by California's participation in MIC3 and the fact that the state is current with the dues," Gavlak says. "The conversations that I have with other commissioners from across the country indicate a willingness to make decisions that put students first, and to support our military dependent families. I am passionate about the need to support our military dependent children and their education as they transition within states and across state boundaries."
The Compact, now adopted by 44 states, is intended to reduce or eliminate "barriers to educational success"
for children from military families as they move between schools and across state lines. The Compact addresses issues such as the transfer of records, participation in extra-curricular activities and placement in special academic programs.
Creating an "intake form" that would be given to military families when they move into California schools is one specific action that the council members are discussing.
"This would allow us to get a full picture of what the parent is needing and whether the need is, in fact, a Compact issue," says Shannon Milder, the regional school liaison officer for the Navy Region Southwest, who serves on the council along with Kelly May, the regional school liaison for Marine Corps Installations West.
The form would initially be made available on the California Department of Education website and distributed to school liaison officers and various local agencies that serve military families moving into the state.
While personnel in schools near bases tend to be aware of the Compact, the greater challenge is informing officials and staff in "far-flung" districts that might not have a lot of military students, Milder says. She added that she thinks school counselors will play an important role in informing schools and providing training on the Compact and on the needs of military students.
"Eventually every school site should have this form," she adds. "We have this looming challenge of getting the word out to every school in California."