SPRINGFIELD – May 19, 2014. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon on Monday applauded the Illinois Senate for passing legislation crafted by her office to ease the transitions of military students moving in and out of Illinois schools. Sponsored by state Sen. Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) and state Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson (D-East St. Louis), House Bill 3939 will align Illinois with national standards on the treatment of military students, many who transfer schools three times more often than their civilian peers. The legislation now returns to the Illinois House for final consideration.
“This measure has the potential to ease the transition for military students and keep defense jobs in our state,” said Simon, chairperson of the Interagency Military Base Support and Economic Development Committee. “By better aligning with national standards, we can assist thousands of military students in Illinois and show how much we value their families. I commend Sen. Bush and Rep. Jackson for their work to pass this legislation.”
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. In the 45 other Compact states, military students enter the same grade level at their new schools, retain previously earned credit and are offered opportunities for extracurricular activities. Illinois’ law does not currently offer the same assurances. The Simon-backed legislation 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.