Gov. Abercrombie signs education bill to help military children in Hawaii

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie signs House Bill 4, reauthorizing Hawaii's participation in the Military Interstate Children's Compact Commission into law. He is joined by (left to right): Pat Park, Central Disrict Complex area superintendent representing the Hawaii Department of Education; Brig. Gen. (ret.) Kathy Berg, co-chair of the Joint Venture Education Forum Communications Group and Hawaii State Commissioner; Maj. Gen. Peter Pawling, representing Adm. Robert Willard, commander of U.S. Pacific Command; Hawaii Sen. Jill Tokuda; and Hawaii Rep. Mark Takai, who sponsored the bill. U.S. Navy photo by MCSN Dustin Sisco

Karen S. Spangler

Managing Editor

Education for military children in Hawaii took another giant step forward when Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed House Bill 4 (HB4), an education bill created to help military children, into law during a ceremony June 3 in the governor’s executive chambers.

The bill, introduced by Rep. K. Mark Takai (DAiea, Pearl City), formalizes Hawaii’s participation in the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission (MIC3).

Military representatives, educators and children were among those who witnessed the signing of the bill, aimed at providing assistance to military children as they transition into schools in other states and military children who move to Hawaii from other school jurisdictions.

“The first activity I dealt with (as a member of Congress) on the education committee was impact aid. I learned what articulation agreements are. This is probably of no concern to the children here … and it shouldn’t be. That’s the point of this legislation,” said Abercrombie as he signed the legislation.

The bill makes Hawaii a permanent member of the national compact. Hawaii is one of 39 member states that have enacted the compact since 2008. The goal is for all 50 states and U.S. territories to eventually be part of the compact.

“Our military children, just like our local children, deserve the very best. We work tirelessly to meet the special needs and demands of being a military child,” explained Takai, who champions military issues and coordinates the Hawaii State Legislature’s Military Appreciation Package.

Takai noted that HB4 removes the lapse date and “will permanently ease the transition for the military children so that they are afforded the same opportunities for educational success as other children and are not penalized or delayed in achieving their educational goals.”

“The interstate compact strengthens and builds on Hawaii’s support to our military community. The compact will ease the challenges created when children are uprooted from school as parents are transferred or are deployed,” Takai explained.

Military children are in a unique situation, faced with the stresses of moving and the possible deployment of a parent, but may also suffer academically as they move from school to school. In such situations, they may be faced with having to make up credits, retake classes, etc.

The compact was created to lessen such struggles, covering issues such as kindergarten entrance age, special education services, absences pertaining to parent deployment activities, eligibility for student enrollment, participation in extra-curricular activities, and on-time graduation.

It was developed by the Council of State Governments’ National Center for Interstate Compacts, the Department of Defense, national associations, federal and state officials, the Department of Education for each state, school administrators and military families.

“Together with Sen. Jill Tokuda, former Sen. Norman Sakamoto and Rep. Roy Takumi, we have worked diligently over the past decade to build a comprehensive partnership between the military and our school system to understand and recognize the unique challenges facing military children and their families,” Takai explained.

A unique aspect of Hawaii’s law is that the state council includes six uniformed military members, representing all branches of the military and the U.S. Pacific Command.

Brig. Gen. (retired) Norman Arflack, executive director of the National Interstate Compact Commission, commended the state of Hawaii on the accomplishments that it has made with regard to the compact. “If every state had the organization and structure Hawaii has, there would no challenges. You have broken the code here in Hawaii,” he said.

Arflack said that Hawaii has the largest number of representatives in military uniform and noted that the participation between all military branches and the Department of Education is an important part of Hawaii’s program and what makes it so successful.

“Military children are our nation’s children. Care of military children sustains our fighting force and strengthens the health, security and safety of our nation’s families and communities,” Takai said.

For more information about the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, visit the Aloha, Military Families and Students (AMFAS) website at http://militaryfamily.k12.h i.us/ or www.mic3.net.

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Category: News