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Educational Opportunity for Military Children 2009 - Legislative Report

Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children 2009 Report to the Legislature.

Executive Summary

The Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children (hereafter called Compact in this report) was developed in an effort to reduce the educational difficulties encountered when the children of military personnel are required to transfer from schools in one state to another.

The issue is of vital concern to military families and can markedly affect career decisions. The Voice of San Diego, in the article "Move After Move, Military Families Caught in Schools' Red Tape External link opens in new window or tab. " reported on one representative family:

"Della Elzie and her three children have bounced between five states in five years, following her military husband, and each time the Elzies grappled with new schools with new rules.

Scores that earn them an A in California were A-minuses in Pennsylvania and North Carolina and were weighted like Bs for a grade point average. Different subjects are taught at different grades, sometimes forcing the Elzies to take the same classes with the same textbooks year after year in Florida, South Carolina and later California.

And Elzie said one school even barred seniors who transferred from other schools from getting a class ranking and becoming valedictorian, denying the honor to her oldest son Kevin.

We do move an awful lot," said Della Elzie, now living in Rancho Bernardo and planning a move back to Florida. Her husband is currently in Iraq. "But if we chose not to move with my husband, we literally would never see him."

Stories like hers are common on the military bases across San Diego and nationwide. Different states instituted a patchwork of different rules that frustrate kids who transfer from state to state for schooling, and some are fiercely protective of their rules. Navigating new bureaucracies with new requirements is especially stressful for military families, who are highly mobile and strained by long absences of parents abroad, sometimes in peril."

To help these families, the Compact was drafted by a group of educators, parents, state education officials, and military personnel under the sponsorship of the Council of State Governments (CSG). It addresses differences in requirements among states involving immunization requirements, the entrance ages for kindergarten and first grade, exit exams, and graduation requirements. It also includes provisions that pertain to the issues military children who transfer schools encounter in course and program placement and participating in extracurricular activities. A copy of the complete Compact is included in Appendix B.

Legislative History

To take effect in a state, the Compact must be adopted by the state's legislature and signed by the Governor. During the 2008 Legislature, it was submitted to the California Legislature for ratification in Assembly Bill 1809. During the legislative deliberations, questions were raised about the fiscal and programmatic impact of the Compact’s requirements, whether the Compact was consistent with state education laws, and the implications of adopting the Compact. After extensive debate, AB 1809 was held in Committee, and another bill, AB 2049, was amended to create a task force to analyze the Compact, explore concerns that were raised, and to make recommendations as to the concerns and the possible adoption of the Compact.

Membership and Duties

The 15-member task force established in AB 2049 included representatives for the following: four legislators, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), Navy Region Southwest, Marine Corps Installations West, the (state) Secretary of Education, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, the State Board of Education, a county office of education for a county with a high concentration of military children, two school district superintendents from school districts with a high concentration of military children, a local school board member, and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The task force met three times between November 2008 and February 2009 to complete its assignment, which is outlined in Section 2 of the bill.

Pursuant to AB 2049, Section 2:

  (b) The task force shall review the compact and issue a final report regarding the compact that includes, at a minimum, all of the following:

  (1) Identification and examination of educational transition and deployment issues that affect military children.

  (2) The implications of, and interplay between, the compact and applicable federal law regarding public schools.

  (3) The implications of, and interplay between, the compact and applicable state law regarding public schools.

  (4) The legal obligations the compact would impose on the state if it were adopted.

  (5) Discussion of provisions within the compact that raise concerns among the task force members and recommendations on the most effective manner to address those concerns.

Process

The task force held three meetings from October 2008 to February 2009. Recognizing that members of the task force were experienced with and sympathetic to the problems of military children, members determined from the onset that they needed to be keenly objective and analytical about the Compact and its effects in the state, from all possible perspectives.

During the meetings, the task force: (1) received testimony from representatives of the Marines and Navy regarding the problems faced by military dependents when they transfer from one state to another; (2) invited school personnel to discuss the challenges that occur when students transfer in and out of their schools; (3) identified the state and federal laws that corresponded to the Compact provisions; (4) explored the potential issues that may occur with the adoption of the Compact; (5) discussed issues that members of the task force identified during the task force’s deliberations; and (6) made recommendations.

General Concerns Identified

The task force identified three concerns that were more global in nature and were not related to specific provisions of the Compact. Table 1 below includes each concern and the task force finding. (See page 14 of the report for complete information.)

Table 1. General Concerns and Review Findings

Concern

Review Finding

State Sovereignty

The Compact does not "divest" local school boards and school administrators of their authority. A closer examination of the text of the Compact, as has been conducted by the 11 states which have enacted it and many of those states considering the legislation, will reveal that the Compact provisions have been broadly drafted with the intent to avoid conflict with existing state education laws as far as possible. The Compact language in the four substantive areas in which uniformity is sought (enrollment, placement, eligibility, and graduation) does not seek to abrogate state control over education policy or procedure, but only to impose a duty of reasonable accommodation of the unique needs of children of military members in these four areas.

Application to Only Military Dependents

The experiences gained in administering this Compact would be instrumental to creating a later program applicable to other transfer students, if the Legislature wished to do so.

Data Requirements

Data collection is the Interstate Commission’s responsibility (Article IX, I). The Interstate Commission would need to obtain a unanimous vote from the member states to establish new data collection requirements or to increase fees for data collection. The first commission meeting did not discuss and took no action on this issue.

Specific Issues Identified

As a result of the review of state laws by task force members and local representatives, the task force identified and addressed several concerns with specific provisions in the Compact. Table 2, Task Force Recommendations – Quick Reference, lists the provisions that have a recommended action. The table includes the title of the Compact provision, the finding, and the recommended action. (See page 25 of the report for complete information.) 

Table 2: Task Force Recommendations – Quick Reference

Compact Provision

Review Finding

Recommendation

Article IV, Section A

Unofficial or "hand-carried" education records

Current state law delegates to local school districts procedures for the release of educational records. Educational Code (EC) 49069 and California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 431 (c)(1) specify that parents currently have the right to review and copy student records within five days of their request. EC 49065 allows districts to charge parents for the cost of copying student records. This language seems to complement the language in the Compact, therefore the Compact would not be creating a new mandate. Also note that EC 49069.5(d) requires that schools provide records for transferring foster youth within two business days, supporting the precedent of districts providing records rapidly for certain students.

Make a non-material amendment to Article IV, Section A, by adding the phrase "to the extent feasible" after "Interstate Commission" in the first sentence.

Article IV, Section B

Official education records/transcripts

Current state law is similar but not identical to the Compact provision. The Compact requires that the school in the sending state process and furnish the official education records to the school in the receiving state within ten days. However, this timeframe could be changed by the Interstate Commission.

Make a non-material amendment to Article IV, Section B, by adding the phrase "to the extent practicable in each case."

Article V, Section A

Course placement

Course placement is at local school district decision.

Make a non-material amendment to Article V, Section A, by adding "and there is space available, as determined by the school district" at the end of the first sentence, after "if the courses are offered."

Article V, Section B

Educational program placement

Program placement is at a local school district decision.

Make a non-material amendment to Article V, Section B, by adding "provided that the program exists in the school and there is space available, as determined by the school district" at the end of the first sentence, after "in like programs in the sending state."

Article VI, Section B

Eligibility for extracurricular participation

The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) rules pertaining to transfer students who want to participate in sports are largely consistent with this Compact provision. However, the LEA application deadlines for sports or activities may be more restrictive than the Compact. Make a non-material amendment to Article VI, Section B, by adding "and space is available, as determined by the school district" at the end of the sentence, after "to the extent they are otherwise qualified."

Article VII, Section A

Graduation - Waiver requirements

School districts do not have the authority to waive state course requirements for graduation. Districts do have discretion to analyze course content and determine if it meets graduation requirements.

Make a non-material amendment to Article VII, Section A, by adding "use best efforts to" after "shall" in the second sentence. 

Article VII, Section B

Exit exams

Article VII, Section B

Exit exams (continued)

California law requires passage of the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) in order to graduate.

Make a non-material amendment to Article VII, Section B, by adding "4) In California, the passage of the CAHSEE is required to graduate if the diploma is to be issued by a California public school, as long as it is a requirement in California."

Article VII, Section C

Transfers during senior year

School districts currently have discretion regarding whether or not they work with the out-of-state district to obtain a diploma from the sending district and whether they work with districts to which California students have transferred.

Make a non-material amendment to Article VII, Section C, by adding "make best effort to" between "shall" and "ensure."

Article XIV,

Section B

Financing of the Interstate Commission

 

The Interstate Commission may levy on and collect an annual assessment from each member state to cover the cost of the operations and activities of the Interstate Commission and its staff which must be in a total amount sufficient to cover the Interstate Commission’s annual budget as approved each year. The aggregate annual assessment amount shall be allocated based upon a formula to be determined by the Interstate Commission, which shall promulgate a rule binding upon all member states.

At its first meeting, the Interstate Commission established the state fee at $1 per military child per year. In California, there are currently 61,552 military children.

Should the state be unable  to appropriate these funds, the task force recommends that provision be made in legislation for the state to accept outside funding to offset the cost of the annual assessment and/or delegate the authority to accept outside funding to a local educational agency (LEA), with the agreement of the LEA. Such delegation would not imply that the LEA accrues liability to meet the annual assessment requirements or is required to use district funds to pay the fees.

Recommendation

After exploring each issue, identifying policy and options, and deliberating on the overall merits and costs of adopting the Compact, the task force recommends that California adopt the Compact if certain non-material changes are made to the Compact as described above.

One issue in the task force deliberations was whether the recommended changes to the Compact were significant enough to be considered "material" changes or not. Since a compact is comparable to a contract between states, material changes to the Compact without the agreement of the other compact members are problematic. In most cases the proposed compact amendments were shared with a representative of the CSG and the task force was informed that the proposed changes were not "material." In order to finally clarify the issue, a copy of the report and the changes will be sent to the CSG and the Interstate Commission for continuing review.

Next Steps

The task force recommends that legislative members of the task force introduce legislation in the 2009–2010 session that will, if adopted, approve the Compact with the recommended amendments.

Acknowledgements

The task force is very grateful to the Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction and Assistant Superintendent Robert Butts for permitting us to draw on the recently completed Washington State task force report. The use of this document has expedited our deliberations and report preparation in substantial ways, thereby permitting more timely completion of this report.

The task force also expresses its thanks to the San Diego Unified School District and its Superintendent, Terry B. Grier, for hosting the task force meetings and to Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Kirk Ankeney, and his staff for providing excellent meeting accommodations and logistical support.

This report was compiled for the task force by staff in the Educational Options, Student Support, and American Indian Education Office, California Department of Education. Convening and facilitating the operation of the task force on behalf of Jack O’Connell, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, was John F. Burns who has since retired. Barbara Pomerantz is the current Administrator for the Educational Options, Student Support, and American Indian Education Office and the Military Liaison. Questions may be directed to Barbara Pomerantz at 916-323-2183, by e-mail at eossaieo@cde.ca.gov, or by regular mail to:

Barbara Pomerantz, Administrator
Educational Options, Student Support, and American Indian Education Office
Military Liaison
California Department of Education
1430 N Street, Suite 6408
Sacramento, CA 95814-5901

California Task Force Report to the Legislature (DOC)

Questions: Jacie Ragland | jragland@cde.ca.gov | 916-323-2568 
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