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Why we need Educational Partnership Program Funding

03.10.2014, by Susan Conolly

Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) grants for the Educational Partnership Program strengthen family-school-community relationships and enhance student achievement for military dependent students. School districts may choose to design their projects with academic goals, family engagement goals, or a combination of both. For a school district to receive this funding, the impact of the grant on the military dependent student must be demonstrable and measureable.

Despite the many positive returns on this investment, Congress, being caught up in the budget constraints and sequestration challenges, did not provide funding for DoDEA grants in the 2014 fiscal budget. What a loss for the students who otherwise would reap the benefits of this great program.

Here’s a little background history on the grants: in fiscal year 2011, $43M was “given up” by the Department of Defense as an efficiency. In 2012, Congress added back in $43M to the DoDEA budget specifically for this purpose, with language recognizing this as an unjustified cut in the previous year. Under the Continuing Resolution (CR) in 2013, the $43M was added again, however, reduced to $38M due to the sequestration cut. And now, in fiscal year 2014, there was no add to the budget for this program. Legislative funding authority for the grants exists through September 2016.

While pages could be written on the many good things that happen for students under these grants, below are just a few of the positive outcome examples:

      - Creates significant gains in student achievement, increased learning opportunities and
         enhanced transition support programs for approximately 320,000 military students and
         670,000 non-military in over 1500 public schools.

      - Increases access to and achievement in Advanced Placement (AP) courses in math,
        science, and English in over 50 public schools. In the first year of one three year grant,
        29 high schools achieved a 64 percent increase in the number of qualifying exam scores
        (nine times the national average) and an 85 percent increase in qualifying on AP math
        and science alone (over eight times the national average).

      - Minimizes the academic disruption of military students transferring to public schools by
         offering or supporting virtual courses where previously there were no such offerings.
         Courses supplement existing curricula, continuity of instruction between grade levels
         and promoting credit recovery. One school district reported 2,662 students taking the
         courses during first year of availability.

We can expect turbulence and uncertainty for military students and schools districts to continue for the foreseeable future. We cannot expect school districts to plan and execute special programs that truly make a difference based on the hope of end-of-year funding. The Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) firmly believes that our Congress should reinstate DoDEA grants for the Educational Partnership Program and continue with this proven and effective use of taxpayer dollars.