SPRINGFIELD – April 10, 2014. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon on Thursday applauded the Illinois House for the passage of legislation crafted by her office to ease the transitions of military students moving in and out of Illinois schools. Sponsored by 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.
“This legislation provides a chance for Illinois to strengthen our commitment to our brave military families,” said Simon, chairperson of the Interagency Military Base Support and Economic Development Committee. “We want to make sure these students are prioritized and transition smoothly into their new classes. It’s right for our kids and important for keeping defense jobs in the state of Illinois.”
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. During testimony in front of the Illinois House Elementary & Secondary committee, Simon noted the importance of ensuring these transitions are as seamless as possible, out of respect for their families’ sacrifices, the children’s learning opportunities and the economic future of our state. Read her testimony here.
Simon added that with potential federal defense spending reductions and potential base closures on the horizon, this measure also levels the playing field for military students and positions our bases for expansions, not drastic cuts.
“I am proud to have drafted and negotiated this bill as part of my role as chairperson of our state’s military base retention committee,” said Simon. “I want to commend Rep. Jackson and the Illinois House for their quick work to pass this important legislation. I hope the Senate and governor will also work quickly to make this the law of Illinois. House Bill 3939 sends a strong message to military families and our federal leaders that Illinois is a strong and supportive education state.”
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. A copy of the legislation can be found here.