Help Tennessee Honor its Military Children and Those Who Serve Them
By Warren Wells, State Board of Education member for the Fourth Congressional District
There’s no doubt that the last few years have been tough for our students. We see it in the news daily. Mental health, school closures, and declining literacy rates have been ongoing topics since the pandemic began.
However, one group of students continually faces these challenges without noticeable public awareness or concern: children of military families.
As a veteran, I have had the pleasure of forming friendships and connecting with many other veterans and military families. I always love to hear from so-called “Army Brats” and children of service members.
Being a part of a military family provides an abundance of amazing experiences and memories. But it also requires great sacrifices that most people will never fully comprehend. For military children, these sacrifices include educational challenges, such as sports eligibility, enrollment, class placement, and varying graduation requirements.
To meet the needs of these students, the Military Interstate Children's Compact Commission (MIC3) was formed.
All 50 states have joined the compact and agreed to implement consistent rules and policies in regard to military children. These aligned policies support students and families who are impacted by military relocation, allowing for smoother transitions to schools in different states. By removing much of the bureaucratic red tape, children of military families can change schools without setbacks, such as incompatible transcripts or graduation requirements.
Tennessee’s own MIC3 state council is composed of education leaders, legislators, military personnel, and state policymakers to ensure our state’s alignment with the provisions of the national compact and to directly address concerns or questions from military families.
Each spring, MIC3 state councils award the Purple Star School Award to schools that go above and beyond in their service to military students. Purple Star Schools must have dedicated staff contacts for military families, guidance to facilitate school transitions, and military family-friendly activities, such as celebrating the Month of the Military Child in April.
This year, ten Tennessee schools were awarded the Purple Star School Award across five school districts:
- Barkers Mill Elementary, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System
- Hancock County Middle/High School, Hancock County Schools
- Liberty Elementary, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System
- Milan High School, Milan Special School District
- Northeast Elementary, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System
- Peabody High School, Trenton Special School District
- Ringgold Elementary, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System
- Rossview High School, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System
- Rossview Middle School, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System
- Tullahoma High School, Tullahoma City Schools
The presentation of the annual Purple Star School Awards is an excellent reminder for Tennesseans to recognize not only the schools that serve our military children but the military children themselves.
While Tennessee students continue to rise to the challenges before them, we can never forget the dependents of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines and the obstacles they must overcome throughout the course of their K-12 education. This military interstate compact is a critical key to keeping these students on track.
As a recently appointed member of the Tennessee State Board of Education and an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, I have been working these last few months to explore how to best serve our state’s one million PreK-12 public school students—including our military children. From my work with the Board, I came to understand the military interstate compact and the valuable work of our Purple Star schools. I want to personally salute the volunteers, parents, teachers, and administrators working faithfully to serve our military families. I call on my fellow Tennesseans to join me in honoring our military service members, their children, and the schools that serve them.
The Tennessee State Board of Education is a ten-member, governor-appointed and legislatively confirmed board charged under the law with rulemaking and policymaking for K-12 education. Through a close partnership with the Tennessee Department of Education, the Board maintains oversight of K-12 implementation and academic standards.
Mr. Warren Wells serves as the State Board of Education’s representative for the Fourth Congressional District. Currently, Mr. Wells serves as the Chief Executive Officer of The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. From 2001 to 2010, Mr. Wells served in the Tennessee Army National Guard and in Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he earned a Combat Action Badge and an Army Commendation Medal. Mr. Wells, his wife Jessica, and their sons Walker and Wright reside in Bedford County, Tennessee.