4 ways Biden administration can aid military children
Students in military families may move up to nine times between kindergarten and high school graduation. Each year, about 200,000 military-connected children must adjust to a new school, new teachers and a new school culture.
Those adjustments include new curricula and graduation requirements as students cope with gaps in education, making new friends and, during the pandemic, coping with the challenges of distance learning, according to the Military Child Education Coalition.
“The new administration should note that meeting the education needs of military-connected children directly impacts military readiness,” coalition officials wrote in a two-page memorandum to the Biden administration’s transition team.
“Department of Defense leadership is taking a keen interest because they realize that if schools near military installations are failing to successfully transition and provide inclusive, quality education opportunities for our nation’s military children, service members will vote with their feet and depart the military.”
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The challenges of adjustment can be exacerbated because differents states and schools have different educational requirements. Students also may find themselves in schools that do not offer Advanced Placement or similar classes.
Military-connected students with special needs also encounter difficulties when seeking accommodations each time they switch schools. These families have also reported the services provided by the military are uneven, the coalition says.
The coalition is encouraging the Biden administration to:
- Improve districts’ ability to track military-connected students: States are required to collect and publish data on the performance of military-connected children in public schools. Because many states are not making this data available, the administration should press states to follow the law so effective policies and or programs can be devised for military children.
- Expand support for students with special needs: Families should be allowed to maintain an individualized education plan for up to six months after switching schools. Parents should also be able to approve any IEP changes. The administration can also require states to track special education disputes involving military children.
- Encourage states to start Purple Start School programs: These programs certify K-12 schools as friendly to, and familiar with, the unique education and social-emotional needs of military-connected children. The administration can encourage all 50 states to adopt the present; at present, fewer than half the states have such a designation program.
- Renew Operation Educate the Educators: The administration should resurrect this Obama administration-era program that prepares new educators for working with military-connected children and developing school cultures that are more supportive of children in military families.
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“Military readiness is inextricably bound to military family readiness, and there is no more important consideration for military families than the education of their children,” the coalition said.
“To sustain both family readiness and military readiness, we ask that the new administration support these recommendations to ensure military families have inclusive, quality educational opportunities for their children,” the coalition concluded.