The Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization voted Thursday to support the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.
Immediately after the organization voted in support of the compact, L. Michael Mortimer,state Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine's community liaison, sent a text message to the Cape Vincent senator telling him there was community support. Mr. Mortimer said Mr. Aubertine then presented the legislation in Albany on Thursday.
The compact is intended to help students who move from one military base to another and have to change schools. The compact would make transferring school and vaccination records easier, would create a standard age for enrolling a child in school, and would allow additional absences to coincide with the deployment cycle of a parent.
There are 20 states participating in the compact, including Texas, Alaska and North Carolina, where several large Army bases are located. The compact has been introduced in 11 states and is pending in six others.
"The military families and kids are the real beneficiaries," said Col. Kenneth H. Riddle, the Fort Drum garrison commander. "The fact the community supports the elements of the compact, it means it can move forward and will benefit soldiers and families."
The organization concluded that the three schools with the largest military student population — Carthage Central School District, Watertown City School District and Indian River Central School District — already are doing many of these things.
For example, students who arrive here in their junior or senior year could get a high school diploma from their former school instead of having to take all of the New York state Regents classes that are required.
"We've done it for years. We've done it since this was Pine Camp," said Jack J. Boak, the district superintendent for the Board of Cooperative Educational Services for Jefferson, Lewis, Hamilton, Herkimer and Oneida counties.
The vote of support came after Mr. Boak told the organization what the compact could do for local school districts and children of military families. Mr. Boak said the committee sent a list of questions and concerns to the state Board of Regents and Education Department but received no response before the meeting Thursday. He said that at the end of the process, the state would be dealing with how to implement the program.
One major concern voiced by some organization members was how the compact would affect the law that requires New York state students to attend at least 180 days of school each year. Under the compact, students could miss more school days to spend time with a parent who is about to deploy or just returned from a deployment.
"Superintendents can excuse absences, but they have the discretion and authority to control that," Mr. Mortimer said. "We have tweaked the definitions so that they are more clear — like transition means from one state to another, not from one district to another."
The compact would not only change how schools near Fort Drum operate; it would affect all districts in the state. That could be beneficial to National Guard and Army Reserve families.
The organization first learned about the compact when Col. Riddle introduced it in the December meeting. Col. Riddle is a strong supporter of the proposal.
"There is tremendous turmoil, and anything we can do to help alleviate that pressure when transferring schools is good with me," he said after the meeting.