Lawton_There are nearly 850,000 students in the United States who have parents on active duty in the US Military, and on average, those children change schools about every 2-3 years as their military parents are reassigned. Many of these children will attend up to six different schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade. So, former Lawton-educator-turned-lawmaker, Oklahoma Representative Ann Coody, has authored a bill that would smooth the education transition for military families.
Students in Lawton already have an easy transition, as Lawton Public Schools (LPS) has been addressing the problem since the early 1990s, but that's not the case with most districts.
When moving state to state, military parents face multiple roadblocks when enrolling their children into a new school. "As they move from location to location, its difficult enough throwing all of your stuff in a bag and going without being penalized when you get to the other end," says retired Army Soldier Don Tucker. He says he's all for the bill, and he's glad it's now a state effort rather than leaving the decision up to each individual school district. Tucker says it was always difficult enrolling his three children in school each time they moved. Some schools required more credits, and some counted his family's moving days as absent school days.
The new law will allow students to use their credits already earned from previous schools, and among other things, won't penalize students for being out of class because of a move. Coody's bill also will help military students avoid many other common problems. "You are not telling them in any manner that the education you had received in another system is not valuable," she says. With 23,000 military students in Oklahoma alone, former educator and current Representative Coody says it was apparent that a bill like this was badly needed. "It's always difficult for a child to leave his friends and former town and school," she says. "So, we need to do everything we can to help those children transition as smoothly as possible."
The bill also will benefit military parents. "I think one of the greatest concerns parents have when they are transferred from one station to another is how their children will transfer from school to school, and how they will be affected," says Coody.
According to LPS Deputy Superintendent Linda Dzialo, 40% of LPS students have a parent in the military, and a large percentage are preparing for deployment, are currently deployed, or are coming back from deployment. "That's a tremendous amount of stress on a family," says Dzialo.. "A soldier has a difficult time concentrating on his mission if he's also worried about his family, and how they are adjusting, and how happy that child is."
Lawton schools have a history of easing the transition of military students into a new school, and that's why Tucker and his family live here. "One of the reasons we settled in Lawton is that Lawton Public Schools has always been student-focused, not policy-focused," he says.
The bill will be signed in to law once it receives the signatures of ten state governors - so far, six states have signed the bill. State Representative Ann Coody says she has no doubt that ten states will sign the bill, but says that in order for it to be the most effective, all states with a military base will need to get on board.