January 22, 2009 in City, Region

Wash. lawmakers may help military families

The Spokesman-Review

OLYMPIA — The Legislature is considering a bill that would help smooth the transition for children of military parents when they transfer into a Washington school district.

Eleven states have already approved an interstate agreement that standardizes tests, graduation requirements, immunization regulations and sports eligibility rules for children of military parents, The News Tribune of Tacoma reported Thursday.

An attempt to ratify the agreement failed last year in the Washington Legislature.

The Senate education committee held a hearing on the bill in Olympia on Wednesday, and officials from Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base testified.

Army Command Sgt. Maj. Steven Winters testified about the effect of his 11th move in 18 years on his four children. His son Steven, who has a 3.75 grade-point average, had trouble getting into advanced placement classes at Bethel High School because a Texas school district was slow in sending his transcripts.

His sister, Haley, 15, also had trouble getting the classes she needed.

“When you only get 30 days’ notice to leave, the schools don’t react that quickly,” Winters told the lawmakers.

He said school counselors don’t understand the problems military children face. Winters’ son was on track to graduate early in Texas, but graduation requirements in his new school district intervened.

“Some of (the school officials) don’t understand — and just don’t care,” said Winters, who will deploy to Iraq with his Stryker brigade in August.

Some education officials questioned whether the state could delegate its school authority to the federal commission that oversees the agreement.

Jerry Bender, director of governmental relations for the Association of Washington School Principals, said he was concerned about unforeseen unfunded mandates, such as adding a transfer student to a class that’s already at capacity.

The senators seemed committed to getting the bill through the Legislature.

“I think it’s fair,” said Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima. “I think it’s equitable. And I do think we need to address these issues.”

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