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Supporting our Military Families

Governor’s Column
By Governor Matt Blunt

Supporting our Military Families

Our nation’s military heroes deserve our gratitude for their selfless service and sacrifice, so too do their families. Over the last four legislative sessions, Missourians can be proud of the new laws we have enacted to benefit veterans and their families. I have signed laws to safeguard families’ right to honor fallen soldiers, better protect military identities, create a new initiative to honor veterans, and protect veterans’ jobs. This year we added to that list with new laws that recognize the special contribution our military families make to our great nation.

The Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children recognizes that military families often move from place to place during their children’s school years. It is a multi-state effort to create regional and national standards for accepting credit from other states for military students. This year we enacted laws in Missouri allowing our state to join others as a part of this compact so we can work together to ease the burden on families as they move from state to state, town to town and school to school.

Because different state education systems have different standards, students may have to meet new requirements to receive credit for classes they successfully passed in a different state. Our servicemen and women and their families deserve better. Children should not be penalized for the selfless service of their parents.

Some of the changes I signed include: allowing military children who have completed pre-kindergarten or kindergarten in another state to enroll in kindergarten or first-grade here in Missouri – even if the child has not reached the minimum age; authorizing the State Board of Education to develop assessment policies to accept credit from military students who transfer in the middle of a school year; and allowing school districts to accept high school coursework in government completed in another state.

The bill also helps the children of service men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in the War on Terror. This legislation creates a scholarship program that could fund up to 25 college tuition scholarships per year plus $2,000 for room and board, and another $500 for books.

The legislation also creates the Heroes at Home initiative. The program recognizes that some Missourians who volunteer in the Guard or Reserve are the primary income earner in their home and as a result the family household income may be reduced when they are deployed. Heroes at Home offers career assistance, job training and supportive services for Missouri Guard and Reserve members and their families. When members are deployed and for a time after they return, qualified family members can access job and career services to help fill in any income gaps. In addition, after deployment returning guard and reserve members can access valuable services to help prepare them for new careers or jobs if they need assistance. The program also connects families to support services to ease the burden and challenges when a family member is deployed.

The reason we are able to live in a free and democratic country is because of the commitment and dedication of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines. It is appropriate that they be treated with the respect and dignity they have rightfully earned. We also must remember the sacrifices that our military families make and ensure that as a state we do everything we can to honor their service to our country.