At the Veterans and Military Day at the Legislature held recently in Carson City, many of us attended an afternoon session in the Education Committee for Assembly Bill 224. This bill would allow the state education system to identify children of military families who are students in Nevada so that the state can identify challenges facing this unique demographic and develop policies that can meet their needs.
This bill is important, and it is just a part of the overall effort underway serve the needs of the children of these families, part of which is a new effort started by our office and our partners at the University of Nevada, under the auspices of the Military Children Education Coalition.
The Military Children Education Coalition is a group that was established some time ago to address the educational needs of school children associated with military families. They aimed to address the different challenges this group faces, finding that military children tend to move from six to nine times during their years of early education. Additionally, as these children move from district to district, they often find differing academic standards and courses, graduation requirements, programs, particularly for children, and even issues with the acceptance of their previous records. As one might guess, these challenges can often have an enormous impact on the students’ success.
The Military Children Education Coalition aims to address these challenges by helping improve support to children of military families no matter where they are or attend school. They have done this in the past by assisting in the development of information resources, the development of alliances between school districts around the world, improving the way military installations support these students, finding technologies that can improve student success, and developing local action plans to meet all of these objectives. With each localized effort, they have learned a little more and seen interesting and unique approaches to dealing with all of the challenges facing military children.
Over the past decade and a half, including a decade of war where families have often endured multiple deployments away from their children, the Military Children Education Coalition has had great success in assisting in the improvement of services. Although created before the most recent wars, they have been providing a truly crucial service to military families over the last 10 years. Their efforts have led to the development of local Family Assistance Centers to support rural areas, educational conferences to educate service providers, including educators, within the statewide community, grants to increase access to counselors in schools with a high population of military children, as well as generally building awareness around these issues.
Recently, the Military Children Education Coalition engaged my office through the Dean of the College of Education to see if we could assist them with setting up such an effort in Nevada, largely through the creation of a steering committee that would carry the process forward in our state. The steering committee, consisting of leaders in the fields of business, community service, education, faith-based, healthcare, as well as service providers, would get together and identify the Nevada-specific challenges as well as developing the Nevada-specific solutions. After identifying members of this statewide group over the last few months, we held our first meeting with members of the Military Children Education Coalition, and progress is already starting to build.
Most of this overall effort commences with what the Military Children Education Coalition calls a public engagement, for which the steering committee members are tasked to identify participants. Through this public engagement, leaders from throughout the state will work together to “identify large and small changes in communities throughout the state that could make a significant difference in the lives of military-connected children,” as their literature describes it. Because the Nevada Office of Veterans Services will be carrying this effort forward after the public engagement, these recommended changes will become a part of the Green Zone Initiatives efforts that I have written about before.
Nevada’s public engagement will be held in Reno in late May, but the progress toward this effort has already been encouraging. As the attention on Assembly Bill 224 suggests, this is an important topic to address, and real changes can be made to help the students. I’m looking forward to assisting in that process as this project develops.
Caleb S. Cage is the executive director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services, appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval. You can read his blog at http://veterans.nv.gov/blog.