New law helps children of active-duty military enroll in S.C. schools

Published: Aug. 15, 2023 at 9:56 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The new school year brings with it so much change: new supplies, new teachers, and maybe even new bus routes.

A few years ago, for 1SG Juliane Becker, it also brought new schools, in a totally new state, after the U.S. Army told her she and her family were headed to Fort Jackson.

“Just like anybody else, we had to make sure we had proof of residency, where we were living, which normally comes in the form of a bill,” Becker said.

But many military families might not have that information until after they move, making the process of enrolling their children in schools that much trickier.

A new state law makes a fairly simple change that aims to alleviate some of the stress of that move for active-duty service members coming to South Carolina.

“When I read the bill, I was incredibly excited,” Becker said. “I was able to see the potential for this bill and how it would make that transition for these family members and these children so much easier.”

The law, called the “Military Temporary Remote School Enrollment Act,” says school districts shall accept a parent’s military transfer orders electronically to sign their children up for any public school or program within the district.

Becker said this is going to be especially helpful for those families who are moving in the middle of the school year or are moving to South Carolina from overseas.

“It’s just one less thing they have to worry about as they’re trying to navigate and figure out where they’re going to live and also get their kids enrolled in those extracurricular activities and things of that nature, magnet programs,” South Carolina Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director of Government Affairs Edward Bell said.

In the past, some students may have fallen behind on their work or missed out on registering for certain classes, programs, clubs, or teams in the time it took to get them enrolled in their new school.

As many as 20,000 military students are in South Carolina at a given time.

Around a quarter of them attend Richland School District Two, which has the highest military student population of any district in the state because of its proximity to Fort Jackson and McEntire Joint National Guard Base in Richland County and Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter County.

“It’s going to help our high schoolers in particular because we have to keep them on track for graduation, and we know that different states and different countries have different course requirements for graduation, so this bill will allow us to get them registered, get their classes scheduled, so these kids can just move right on through to graduation,” Richland Two Military Community Liaison Kelsie Carter said.

Becker said for military families like her own, this change helps them not only support their kids.

It also helps bolster the reason they came to South Carolina in the first place.

“This bill will absolutely aid soldiers and their family members coming in to be able to focus on the mission, where, on Fort Jackson, we make American soldiers,” Becker said.

The bipartisan bill passed the state legislature this year without a single vote against it on the floor and was signed into law by Gov. Henry McMaster in May.

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