PA 08-57—sHB 5545

Select Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee

Education Committee

Government Administration and Elections Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING THE INTERSTATE COMPACT ON EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY FOR MILITARY CHILDREN AND GRADUATE DEGREES FOR MEMBERS OF THE CONNECTICUT NATIONAL GUARD

SUMMARY: This act (1) enacts and commits Connecticut to the terms of the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children and (2) creates an Interstate Commission on Educational Opportunity for Military Children to administer and enforce the compact. It also expands the National Guard tuition waiver program at UConn and in the Connecticut State University (CSU) system to include graduate programs (see BACKGROUND).

The compact provides a legal mechanism and creates uniform standards for schools and school boards to use to facilitate placement, enrollment, graduation, data collection, and other decisions involving children in kindergarten through grade 12 (K-12) when they move to other states because their parents are deployed on active duty in the U. S. Armed Services. The compact's stated purpose is to remove barriers to educational success imposed on such children because of their parents' frequent moves and deployment.

The compact applies to children of (1) active-duty armed forces members, including National Guard members and reservists on active duty under Title 10 of federal law; (2) veterans severely injured and medically discharged or retired, for one year after discharge or retirement; and (3) service members who die while on active duty or from active-duty injuries, for one year after death.

The compact addresses (1) the commission's purposes, powers and duties, organizational structure, operating procedures, and rulemaking functions; (2) oversight, enforcement, and dispute resolution; and (3) liability and other issues. It requires the commission to open its meetings to the public and its official records for public inspection. The commission may levy an annual assessment on member states to cover the cost of its operations, activities, and staff.

Any U. S. state or territory may join the compact, and any member state may withdraw from it by repealing the enacting legislation. The compact takes effect when 10 states have enacted it. It has the force and effect of statutory law and is binding on all member states. It supersedes conflicting laws in member states.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage for the compact; July 1, 2008 for the tuition waiver for guard members.

COMPACT'S PURPOSE

The compact's stated purpose is to remove barriers to educational success imposed on children of military families (military children) because of their parents' frequent moves and deployment. It aims to:

1. facilitate their timely enrollment and ensure that they are not placed at a disadvantage because of (a) variations in age or entrance requirements or (b) difficulty transferring education records from previous school districts;

2. facilitate their placement so that they are not disadvantaged by variations in attendance requirements, scheduling, sequencing, grading, course content, or assessments;

3. facilitate their qualification and eligibility for enrollment, educational programs, and participation in extracurricular academic, athletic, and social activities;

4. facilitate on-time graduation;

5. provide for promulgating and enforcing administrative implementing rules;

6. provide for uniform information collection and sharing among member states, schools, and military families;

7. promote coordination with other compacts affecting military children; and

8. promote flexibility and cooperation among educational systems, parents, and students to achieve educational success for the students.

ARTICLE III—APPLICABILITY

Children

The compact applies to children in grades K-12 of:

1. active-duty members of the uniformed services (U. S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Public Health Services), including guard members and reservists on active duty under Title 10 of federal law;

2. members or veterans of the uniformed services severely injured and medically discharged or retired, for one year after such discharge or retirement; and

3. members of the uniformed services who die on active duty or from active-duty injuries, for one year after death.

The compact specifically excludes from its coverage children of (1) inactive guard members and reservists, (2) veterans and retired members of the uniformed services not included above, and (3) other U. S. Department of Defense (DOD) personnel and other federal agency civilian and contract employees not defined as active-duty members of the uniformed services.

Education Agencies and Schools

The compact applies to local education agencies. It defines these as state-constituted public authorities that control and direct public K-12 schools (i. e. , local and regional school boards).

ARTICLE IV—EDUCATIONAL RECORDS AND ENROLLMENT

If a school cannot release official education records to parents for transfer purposes, the sending state's record custodian must give the parents a complete set of unofficial records with uniform information as determined by the Interstate Commission. When the school in the receiving state gets these records, it must (1) place the student as quickly as possible, pending validation by the official records, and (2) ask the sending state for the official records. Within 10 days of receiving the request, or within a reasonable time the commission sets, the school must provide the official records.

The compact defines “educational records” as official student records, files, and data that a school or school board maintains, including records of all material kept in a student's cumulative folder. These include general identifying data, attendance and academic records, records of achievement and results of evaluative tests, health data, disciplinary status, test protocols, and individualized education programs.

Receiving states must give students 30 days from enrollment, or a deadline the commission sets, to obtain state-required immunizations. For a series of immunizations, the initial vaccinations must be obtained within 30 days or a time reasonably determined under the commission's rules.

Students must be allowed to enroll at grade level in receiving states commensurate with their grade level, including kindergarten, in sending states at the time of transition. If they satisfactorily complete the prerequisite grade level in the sending state, they may enroll in the next highest grade level in the receiving state. If they transfer after the start of the school year, they must enroll at their validated level from a sending state's accredited school. These provisions apply regardless of the student's age.

ARTICLE V—PLACEMENT AND ATTENDANCE

Receiving schools must initially place transitioning military students in educational courses based on their enrollment in, and educational assessments conducted at, sending schools if the receiving schools offer the courses. This includes honors, International Baccalaureate, advanced placement, vocational, technical, and career pathways courses. The paramount considerations for placing a student should be to (1) continue the academic program he or she pursued in the sending school and (2) place him or her in academically and career challenging courses.

Receiving schools must initially honor student placement in educational programs based on (1) sending schools' current educational assessments or (2) participation and placement in like programs in sending states. These include gifted and talented and English as a second language programs.

Receiving schools may perform subsequent evaluations to ensure appropriate placement and continued course enrollment.

Federal Requirements

In compliance with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, receiving states must initially provide comparable services to students with disabilities based on their current individualized education programs.

In compliance with the federal Rehabilitation Act and Americans with Disabilities Act, receiving states must make reasonable accommodations and modifications to address the needs of incoming students with disabilities, subject to an existing 504 or Title II Plan, to provide students with equal education access. Receiving schools may perform subsequent evaluations to ensure appropriate student placements.

Course Waivers

The compact requires that local school board administrative officials be given flexibility to waive course and program prerequisites, or other preconditions, for placement in courses and programs offered under the local school board's jurisdiction.

School Absences

A student whose parent or legal guardian is called to active duty for, is on leave from, or “immediately returned” from, deployment in a combat or combat-support zone must be granted additional excused absences at the discretion of the local school board superintendent to visit with his or her parent or legal guardian “relative to such leave or deployment of the parent or guardian.

The compact defines “deployment” as the period one month before a service member's departure on military orders from his or her “home station” to six months after returning.

ARTICLE VI—ELIGIBILITY

Children with Noncustodial Parents/Transitioning Military Children

Under the compact, special power of attorney for the guardianship of a military child, executed under applicable law, is sufficient for enrollment and other purposes requiring parental participation and consent.

Local school boards cannot charge local tuition to a transitioning military child living with a noncustodial parent or other person standing in loco parentis in a jurisdiction other than that of the custodial parent. The child may continue to attend the school in which he or she was enrolled while living with the custodial parent.

The state and local school boards must facilitate the inclusion of transitioning military children in extracurricular activities, regardless of application deadlines, to the extent they are otherwise qualified.

ARTICLE VII—GRADUATION

The state and local school boards must incorporate the following procedures to facilitate on-time graduation of military children. They must (1) waive specific courses required for graduation if the child satisfactorily completed similar course work in another local school board's jurisdiction or (2) provide reasonable justification for denial. If the board does not grant the waiver to a student who would qualify to graduate from the sending school, it must provide an alternative means of completing the required coursework so the student can graduate on time.

A receiving state must accept (1) exit or end-of-course exams required for graduation from the sending state; (2) national norm-referenced achievement tests; or (3) alternative testing, instead of its graduation testing requirements.

If, after all alternatives are considered, a military student transferring in his or her senior year who meets graduation requirements in the sending state is ineligible to graduate in the receiving state, the local school boards in both jurisdictions must ensure that the sending state's local school board provides the diploma to the student. If one of the states is not a compact member, the member state must use its best efforts to facilitate the on-time graduation of the student in accordance with pertinent compact provisions.

ARTICLE VIII—STATE COORDINATION

Each member state must create a state council or use an existing body or board to coordinate the state's participation in, and compliance with, the compact and commission activities.

Each member state may determine its council membership. But the membership must include the state education superintendent, a superintendent of a school district with a high concentration of military children, a military installation representative, one representative each from the legislative and executive branches of government, and other offices and stakeholder groups the council deems appropriate. A state that does not have a school district deemed to contain a high concentration of military children may appoint a superintendent from another school district to represent local school boards on the council.

Military Family Education Liaison and Compact Commissioner

Each state's council must appoint or designate a military family education liaison to help military families and the state implement the compact. The governor, or other person the state determines, must appoint a compact commissioner to administer and manage the state's participation in the compact. The commissioner and military family education liaison are ex-officio council members, unless either is already a full voting council member.

ARTICLE IX—INTERSTATE COMMISSION ON EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY FOR MILITARY CHILDREN

The compact creates the Interstate Commission on Educational Opportunity for Military Children. Its activities are “the formation of public policy and are a discretionary state function. ” It is a body corporate and joint agency of the member states having all the responsibilities, powers, and duties under the compact and additional powers that a subsequent concurrent action of the participating states' respective legislatures may confer upon it, in accordance with the compact.

Membership

The commission consists of (1) voting members and (2) ex-officio, nonvoting, representatives of interested organizations.

It must have one voting representative from each member state. This member is the state's compact commissioner. Each member state represented at a commission meeting has one vote. A majority of the total member states constitutes a quorum for transacting business, unless the commission's bylaws set a larger quorum. A representative cannot delegate a vote to another member state, but if a commissioner cannot attend a meeting, the governor or state council may delegate voting authority to another person from the state for a specific meeting. The bylaws may provide for conducting commission meetings by telephone or electronically.

Ex-officio members, as defined in the bylaws, may include, representative organizations of military family advocates, local school board officials, parent and teacher groups, the DOD, the Education Commission of the States, the Interstate Agreement on the Qualification of Educational Personnel, and other interstate compacts affecting the education of military children.

Executive Committee

The commission must establish an executive committee, which may act on its behalf, except to make rules, when it is not in session. The committee must oversee the day-to-day activities of administering the compact. This includes enforcement and compliance with regard to compact provisions, bylaws, and rules, and performing other necessary duties.

The committee must include the commission's officers and other commission members, as the bylaws require. These members serve one-year terms and have one vote each. DOD must serve as an ex-officio, nonvoting member.

Bylaws and Information Disclosure

The commission must establish bylaws and rules outlining conditions and procedures for making information and official records publicly available for inspection or copying. It may exempt from disclosure information or official records that would adversely affect personal privacy rights or proprietary interests.

Meetings

The commission must meet at least once each calendar year. Its chairperson may call additional meetings and must do so if a majority of member states asks for one.

The commission must give public notice of all its meetings. Meetings must be open to the public, except as the commission's rules or the compact otherwise provides. The commission and its committees may close a meeting, or portion thereof, if it determines by two-thirds vote that an open meeting is likely to:

1. relate solely to internal personnel practices and procedures,

2. disclose matters that state or federal law specifically exempts from disclosure,

3. disclose trade secrets or privileged or confidential commercial or financial information,

4. involve formally censuring someone or accusing him or her of a crime,

5. disclose personal information where disclosure would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,

6. disclose investigative records compiled for law enforcement purposes, or

7. specifically relate to the commission's participation in a civil action or other legal proceeding.

The commission may direct its legal counsel or designee to certify that a meeting may be closed and the counsel or designee must cite each relevant criterion governing its closure.

The commission must (1) keep minutes that fully and clearly describe all matters discussed in a meeting and (2) provide a full and accurate summary of, and reasons for, actions taken, including a description of the views expressed and roll call vote record. The minutes must identify documents considered in connection with an action. All minutes and documents of a closed meeting must be sealed, subject to release by a majority vote of the commission.

Data Collection

The commission must collect standardized data on the educational transition of military children under the compact as its rules direct. The rules must specify the data to be collected, data exchange and collection methods, and reporting requirements. The data collection, exchange, and reporting, as far as reasonably possible, must conform to current technology and “coordinate its information functions with the appropriate custodian of records as identified in the bylaws and rules.

Violation and Noncompliance Reports

The commission must create a process for military officials, education officials, and parents to inform it when (1) any alleged violations of the compact or its rules occur or (2) a state or local school board does not address issues under the jurisdiction of the compact or its rules. This does not create a private right of action against the commission or member states.

ARTICLE X—COMMISSION'S POWERS AND DUTIES

The compact gives the commission the power to:

1. provide for dispute resolution among member states;

2. promulgate rules that have the force and effect of statutory law and are binding on all member states, and take all necessary actions to achieve the compact's goals, purposes, and obligations;

3. issue advisory opinions on the meaning or interpretation of the compact, its bylaws, rules, and actions when a member state asks;

4. enforce compliance with the compact, and the commission's rules and bylaws, using all necessary and proper means, including the judicial process;

5. establish and maintain offices in one or more of the member states;

6. buy and maintain insurance and bonds;

7. borrow, accept, hire, or contract for personnel services;

8. establish and appoint committees, including an executive committee, to act on its behalf;

9. elect or appoint officers, attorneys, employees, agents, or consultants, and fix their compensation, define their duties, and determine their qualifications;

10. establish personnel policies and programs relating to conflicts of interest, compensation rates, and personnel qualifications;

11. accept, receive, use, and dispose of donations and grants of money, equipment, supplies, material, and services;

12. lease, buy, and accept contributions or donations of, or otherwise own, hold, improve, or use, property;

13. sell, convey, mortgage, pledge, lease, exchange, abandon, or otherwise dispose of any property;

14. establish a budget and make expenditures;

15. adopt a seal and bylaws governing its management and operation;

16. report annually to member states' legislatures, governors, judiciary, and state councils on its activities during the preceding year, including any recommendations it adopted;

17. coordinate education, training, and public awareness on the compact, its implementation, and operation for pertinent officials and parents;

18. establish uniform standards for reporting, collecting, and exchanging data;

19. maintain corporate books and records in accordance with its bylaws;

20. perform functions necessary or appropriate to achieve the compact's purposes; and

21. provide for uniform information collection and sharing among member states, schools, and military families.

ARTICLE XI—ORGANIZATION AND OPERATION OF THE INTERSTATE COMMISSION

Within 12 months after its first meeting, the commission, by a majority vote of members present and voting, must adopt bylaws to govern its conduct as may be necessary or appropriate to carry out the compact's purposes. The bylaws must:

1. establish the commission's fiscal year;

2. establish an executive committee, and other committees as necessary;

3. provide for establishing committees and for governing any general or specific delegation of authority or commission function;

4. provide reasonable procedures for calling and conducting meetings and providing meeting notices;

5. establish titles and responsibilities of commission officers and staff;

6. provide a mechanism for winding up business and returning any leftover funds when the compact terminates, after paying and reserving for debts and obligations; and

7. provide start-up rules for initially administering the compact.

Commission Officers

Annually, the commission, by a majority vote of its members, must elect from its membership a chairperson, vice-chairperson, and treasurer, each having the authority and duties specified in the commission's bylaws. The chairperson or, in the chairperson's absence or disability, the vice-chairperson, must preside at all commission meetings. These elected members serve without compensation or remuneration but, subject to the availability of budgeted funds, must be reimbursed for ordinary and necessary costs and expenses incurred performing commission business.

Executive Committee, Officers, and Personnel

The executive committee must have the authority and perform the duties outlined in the bylaws. It must, among other things:

1. manage the commission's affairs consistent with the commission's bylaws and purposes;

2. oversee “an organizational structure within, and appropriate procedures for the [commission] to provide for the creation of rules, operating procedures, and administrative and technical support functions”; and

3. plan, implement, and coordinate communication and activities with other state, federal, and local government organizations in order to advance the commission's goals.

The committee, subject to commission approval, may appoint or retain an executive director on terms and conditions, and for the compensation, the commission considers appropriate. The executive director must (1) serve as secretary to, but cannot be a member of, the commission and (2) hire and supervise other personnel the commission authorizes.

Liability and Immunity Issues

The commission's executive director and its employees are immune from suit and liability, either personally or in their official capacities, for property damage, personal injury, or other civil liability claims caused, arising from, or relating to an actual or alleged act, error, or omission that occurred, or that they had a reasonable basis for believing occurred, within the scope of their employment.

For the commission's executive director, employees, and representatives acting within the scope of their employment or duties, liabilities for acts, errors, or omissions within their state may not exceed the liability limits under the pertinent state's constitution and laws for state officials, employees, and agents. The commission is considered to be an instrumentality of the states for purposes of such actions.

The commission must defend its executive director, employees, and representatives in any civil action seeking to impose liability arising from an actual or alleged act, error, or omission that occurred, or that they had a reasonable basis for believing occurred, within the scope of their employment, duties, or responsibilities. The defense of commission representatives is subject to the approval of the attorney general or other appropriate legal counsel of the member state represented by the commission representative.

To the extent not covered by the state involved, member state, or the commission, commission representatives or employees must be held harmless in the amount of a settlement or judgment, including attorney's fees and costs, arising out of an actual or alleged act, error, or omission that occurred within the scope of their employment, or that they had a reasonable basis for believing occurred within such scope.

The above provisions do not apply in cases of intentional or willful and wanton misconduct.

ARTICLE XII—COMMISSION'S RULEMAKING FUNCTIONS

The commission must promulgate reasonable rules to effectively and efficiently achieve the compact's purposes. If it exercises rulemaking authority beyond the scope of such purposes or its powers under the compact, the action is invalid and has no legal effect.

The commission must make its rules under a rulemaking process that substantially conforms to the 1981 federal “Model State Administrative Procedure Act,” Uniform Laws Annotated, Vol. 15, p. 1 (2000) as amended, as appropriate to the commission's operations.

Anyone may petition for judicial review of a commission rule within 30 days after it is promulgated. The filing of a petition does not stay or otherwise prevent the rule from taking effect, unless the court finds that the petitioner has a substantial likelihood of success. The court must give deference to the commission's actions consistent with applicable law. It cannot find the rule unlawful if it represents a reasonable exercise of the commission's authority.

If a majority of member states' legislatures rejects a rule by enacting a statute or resolution in the same manner used to adopt the compact, the rule has no further force and effect in any member state.

ARTICLE XIII—OVERSIGHT, ENFORCEMENT, AND DISPUTE RESOLUTION

Oversight

The compact and implementing rules have the force of statutory law. Member states' executive, legislative, and judicial branches must enforce the compact and take necessary and appropriate actions to accomplish its purposes and intent.

Courts must take judicial notice of the compact and its rules in any judicial or administrative proceeding in a member state on compact provisions that may affect the commission's actions, powers, or responsibilities. The commission is entitled to receive all service of process, and has standing to intervene, in any such proceeding. Failure to provide service of process to the commission renders a judgment or order void as to the commission, compact, or promulgated rules.

Default

If the commission determines that a member state failed to perform its obligations or responsibilities under the compact, bylaws, or promulgated rules, it must (1) send written notice to the defaulting state and other member states of the nature of the default, the means and conditions for correcting it, and any commission action and (2) provide remedial training and specific technical assistance on the default.

If the defaulting state fails to cure the default, its membership must be terminated by a majority vote of the member states, and all its rights, privileges, and benefits under the compact are ended from the effective date of termination. Correcting the default does not relieve the state of obligations or liabilities it incurred when it was in default.

The commission may suspend or terminate a member state only after exhausting all other means of securing compliance. It must give notice of intent to suspend or terminate the state to (1) the state's governor and House and Senate majority and minority leaders and (2) each member state. The state is responsible for all assessments, obligations, and liabilities incurred through, and obligations that extend beyond, the effective date of suspension or termination.

The commission cannot bear costs for any state found to be in default or suspended or terminated, unless it and the state agree to this in writing.

A defaulting state may appeal commission actions by petitioning the U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia or the federal district where the commission has its principal offices. The prevailing party must be awarded all litigation costs, including reasonable attorney's fees.

Dispute Resolution

The commission must attempt, if asked by a member state, to resolve compact disputes involving member states and between member and nonmember states. Its rules must provide for both mediation and binding dispute resolution, as appropriate.

Enforcement

The commission, in the reasonable exercise of its discretion, must enforce the compact and its rules. To enforce compliance with the compact or commission rules and bylaws against a defaulting state, it may, by majority vote of the members, initiate legal action in the U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia or, at its discretion, in the federal district where it has its principal offices. It may seek both injunctive relief and damages. If judicial enforcement is necessary, the prevailing party must be awarded all litigation costs, including reasonable attorney's fees. The compact's remedies are not exclusive; the commission may avail itself of any other remedies available under state law “or the regulation of a profession.

ARTICLE XIV—FINANCING OF THE INTERSTATE COMMISSION

The commission must pay, or arrange to pay, the reasonable expenses of its establishment, organization, and ongoing activities. It may levy on, and collect from, member states an annual assessment to cover the cost of its operations, activities, and staff. The assessment must be sufficient to cover its annual approved budget. The commission must allocate the aggregate annual assessment, using a formula it establishes, and promulgate a rule binding on all member states.

The commission cannot (1) incur any obligations before securing adequate funds or (2) pledge any member state's credit, unless the state authorizes it to do so. It must keep accurate accounts of receipts and disbursements, which must be (1) subject to audit and accounting procedures established under its bylaws and (2) audited yearly by a certified or licensed public accountant. It must include the audit report as part of its annual report.

ARTICLE XV—EFFECTIVE DATE AND AMENDMENT

Any U. S. state or territory may join the compact, which takes effect and is binding when 10 states enact it. After that, it is effective and binding on any state that enacts it.

The commission may propose compact amendments for enactment by member states. Amendments take effect and are binding on the commission and member states when enacted into law by unanimous consent of member states.

Governors of nonmember states, or their designees, must be invited to participate in commission activities as nonvoters.

ARTICLE XVI—WITHDRAWAL AND DISSOLUTION

Withdrawal

Once it takes effect, the compact continues in force and binds all member states. A state may withdraw from the compact by repealing the statute that enacted it. The withdrawal cannot take effect until (1) one year after the effective date of the repealing statute and (2) the withdrawing state gives written notice to the governor of each member jurisdiction.

When repealing legislation is introduced, the withdrawing state must immediately give written notice to the commission chairperson. The commission must notify other member states within 60 days after receiving the notice.

The withdrawing state is responsible for all assessments, obligations, and liabilities incurred through the effective date of withdrawal, including obligations that extend beyond that date.

A state may be reinstated upon reenacting the compact or on a later date the commission determines.

Dissolution

The compact dissolves on the date when only one state remains a member. Upon dissolution, it becomes null and void and has no further force or effect. It must wind up its business and affairs and distribute any surplus funds in accordance with its bylaws.

ARTICLE XVII—SEVERABILITY AND CONSTRUCTION

The compact's provisions are severable and must be liberally construed to achieve their purposes. If any phrase, clause, sentence, or provision is deemed unenforceable, the remaining provisions are enforceable.

The compact does not affect the applicability of other interstate compacts in which the states are members.

ARTICLE XVIII—EFFECT OF COMPACT AND OTHER LAWS

Other Laws

The compact does not prevent the enforcement of any other member state's law not inconsistent with the compact. It supersedes conflicting laws of any member state.

Binding Effect of the Compact

The commission's lawful actions, including its rules and bylaws, are binding upon member states. Agreements between the states and commission are binding in accordance with their terms. If any compact provision exceeds constitutional limits imposed on the legislature of any member state, the provision is ineffective to the extent of the conflict with the constitutional provision in that member state.

BACKGROUND

National Guard Tuition Waiver

By law, UConn, CSU, and regional community technical colleges must waive tuition in undergraduate programs for qualified, active Connecticut National Guard members. To qualify for a tuition waiver, the member must be (1) certified by the adjutant general, or his designee, to be in good standing and (2) enrolled in or accepted for admission to a degree-granting program.

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