MASCOUTAH – June 28, 2014. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon today joined Governor Pat Quinn who signed legislation crafted by her office to ease the transitions of military students moving in and out of Illinois schools. House Bill 3939 sponsored by Sen. Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) and Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson (D-East St. Louis) passed the General Assembly almost unanimously.
“Military families make tremendous sacrifices for our country, and today we are taking steps to support them. This law shows that Illinois is a state that protects military families and protects good jobs,” said Simon, who chairs the state’s Interagency Military Base Support and Economic Development Committee (IMBSEDC). “This new law is the result of a lot of hard work, and I commend Rep. Jackson and Sen. Bush for their leadership in the legislature. I would like to thank Governor Quinn for quickly signing it into law.”
In 2010, Illinois joined the Interstate Compact for Military Children and adopted the state’s first-ever law recognizing the unique educational challenges of military students. With today’s action, Illinois joins other Compact states in ensuring that military students enter the same grade level at their new schools, retain previously earned credit and are offered opportunities for extracurricular activities.
“I am proud to represent many of Illinois’ military families, who call this community home,” said House sponsor Rep. Jackson. “Military families and military communities face unique challenges, and it is important that we as a state demonstrate our commitment to supporting the men and women – the families – who sacrifice on our behalf.”
“These families give up so much in order to serve in our military. The least we can do is ensure that school transfers are as easy on their children as possible,” said Sen. Bush, who sponsored the measure in the Senate.
The Simon-backed law brings Illinois into alignment with other Compact states, providing protections military students deserve while also preserving local control. They include:
Grade Level: Students must be allowed to continue their enrollment at grade level in the receiving state at the time of transition; subsequent evaluation to verify placement is allowed.
Course & Program Placement: Schools shall initially honor course and program placement for military students at the time of transition, including Advanced Placement and ESL, provided that the courses are offered and space is available; subsequent evaluation to verify placement is allowed.
Extracurricular Activities: Schools shall facilitate the opportunity for inclusion in sports and other activities to the extent that children are qualified and space is available as determined by the school principal.
The state of Illinois is home to approximately 10,000 military students, most of whom have at least one parent on active duty at major installations in North Chicago, the Quad Cities and Metro East. They may transfer schools up to nine times between kindergarten and high school graduation, a rate three times that of their civilian peers.
Simon added that with potential federal defense spending reductions and potential base closures on the horizon, this measure positions our bases for expansions, not drastic cuts.
During a series of listening posts hosted by the Simon-chaired Interagency Military Base Support and Economic Development Committee (IMBSEDC) held last year near Scott Air Force Base, Naval Station Great Lakes and the Rock Island Arsenal, families and military leadership consistently raised the issue of improving school transition.
As chair of the IMBSEDC, Simon helps coordinate the state’s activities and communications relating to current and former military bases in Illinois. This spring, Simon joined U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), members of Illinois’ congressional delegation and officials from the U.S. Air Force to discuss the future of Scott Air Force Base in Belleville. This fall, her office intends to release an economic impact study of the state’s military industry with the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.