JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —
A group of 29 Joint Base San Antonio members and parents discussed and brought forth ideas on how to address educational issues and challenges experienced by military school-age children and their families during a meeting at 502nd Air Base Wing Headquarters at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston Nov. 26.
In the meeting, military leaders, spouses and parents, school liaison officers and support personnel focused on issues pertaining to the Interstate Compact for the Education of Military Children, or MIC3. The compact provides for the uniform treatment of military children transferring between school districts and states in the areas of enrollment, placement and attendance, eligibility and graduation.
In addition, the group is hoping to host an education summit with the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce next year that will cover the issues and topics that were discussed at the Nov. 26 group meeting.
JBSA has more than 35,000 military school-age children in 36 independent school districts, 660 public schools and 260 private and parochial schools spread out within a nine-county area, which is approximately one-third of the total population of military school-age dependents in Texas, which is 90,000 plus.
Jeremy Hilton, Air Force Personnel Center program analyst at JBSA-Randolph and a military spouse, said one problem that needs to be addressed is the inadequate implementation of the MIC3 in Texas. He said the panel that is supposed to enforce the compact, the State Advisory Council, seems to only exist on paper.
Hilton said efforts will continue with representatives from Gov. Greg Abbott’s office to determine how to go about strengthening the implementation of MIC3 in Texas.
“A follow-up will obviously be working with the governor’s office to figure out what is the best way forward,” Hilton said. “Is that to simply implement what I think is already the law or is it something we need to look at in the next legislative session?”
The next scheduled session of the Texas Legislature is in January 2021.
Hilton said the state is doing some things to accommodate military families transferring to installations in Texas. House Bill 1597, which was passed by the Legislature this year, establishes a process in which a transferring military school-age dependent may register early in a school district in Texas once their parent or guardian servicemenber receives permanent change of station orders.
Under the law, the military school-age child can take advantage of early registration in a district adjacent to the installation their parent or guardian servicemember will be assigned to through PCS orders.
Christine Walrath, a military spouse whose daughter attends a high school in a district adjacent to JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, shared a problem the family is having with the school district in regards to the district not wanting to count certain advanced classes her daughter took at other school towards her GPA. Walrath’s daughter took those courses before the family was transferred to JBSA-Fort Sam Houston in July.
“These are classes that they worked hard for and they are being told sorry you can’t use that for your GPA and my question is, ‘Why not?’” Walrath said. “This is a unique child community and they’re not moving because they just don’t like the school they came from. Oftentimes they don’t have a choice where they go. Regardless of the situation, they’re resilient and they do their part, they work hard, they get their grades.
“And then they come here and (the district says), ‘You know what, all that hard work we’re not going to recognize it and we’re not even going to count it.’ How is that representing Military City USA?” Walrath added.
Another topic that came up at the meeting was the ability of military school-age children to participate in extracurricular activities and programs that are not offered at JBSA schools.
Leslie Janaros, a military spouse, told the group she knew of a military family who transferred to JBSA-Lackland whose son was a good baseball player. Since a scholastic baseball program is not offered at JBSA-Lackland, they enrolled their son at an area high school that offered baseball. To do that, though, the parents had to pay over $8,000 a year in tuition for their son to go to the school.
Lori Phipps, Air Force Services Center Child and Youth Education Services school liaison program manager at JBSA-Lackland, said she knows of homeschoolers of military families at JBSA who want to participate in extracurricular activities, but can’t because they are not allowed to in Texas, even though they were able to participate in those activities when they were stationed at installations in other states.
Hilton said he has reached out to the University Interscholastic League, which regulates and administers rules for athletic and extracurricular activities in Texas, to see what they could do to help transferring military school-age children who want to participate in athletic and extracurricular activities. He said the UIL is working on some action items to help military families, including creating a point of contact for military families and creating a list of frequently asked questions for military families coming to Texas.
Phipps said if the group wants to bring changes to the education system for the benefit of military-school age children it must build relationships with local school districts and reach out to the local community for help.
“It is a community effort,” Phipps said. “It takes a community to change the education piece. It’s not going to be just something that we can say right here, it’s a community driven effort.”