SPRINGFIELD – May 29, 2014. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon today applauded the Illinois General Assembly for passing 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) now heads to Governor Quinn for signing.
“I appreciate the legislature’s strong support of this measure that will improve educational opportunities for military students and help keep military jobs in our state,” said Simon, who chairs the state’s Interagency Military Base Support and Economic Development Committee (IMBSEDC). “I would like to thank the school administrators for their valuable input, and I commend Rep. Jackson and Sen. Bush for their work to pass this bill. I look forward to the governor signing it into law.”
“The Metro East is home to many of our state’s military families, and I look forward to returning to my district to show military families that they have our support,” said Rep. Jackson. “Today we showed our commitment to these families that sacrifice so much.”
“I was pleased to sponsor this legislation in the Senate, and I would like to thank Lt. Governor Simon for raising this important issue,” said Sen. Bush. “It is vital that we do everything in our power to support our military families and military students, and I encourage the governor to sign HB 3939 into law quickly.”
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. This spring, Simon has 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 Scott Air Force Base in Belleville.