The House has unanimously passed legislation seeking to help military families across the state navigate schooling.
The bill (HB 429), sponsored by Brandon Democratic Rep. Andrew Learned and Fort Walton Beach Republican Rep. Patt Maney, establishes the Purple Star Program, which helps schools respond to educational and social-emotional challenges military-connected children face during transitions to a new school.
The proposal, which garnered 33 cosponsors, received unanimous approval in the House Friday.
“As a veteran and the father of two wonderful 8-year-olds, I know the process of changing schools, particularly in the middle of a school year, can be incredibly difficult for families and students,” Learned said in a statement. “We want to recognize the schools that invest in programs that will help our military students transition when their parents’ assignments change.”
Currently, military families who are transitioning to a new base in Florida have no way to identify schools with additional support programs for their students. This program hopes to change that.
The bill requires the Department of Education to establish a Purple Star Campus Program, which identifies schools that support children in military families, including public schools, charter schools, and schools participating in the Florida educational choice scholarship program.
Under the program, schools will be recognized as Purple Star Campuses if they meet certain requirements, including having a designated staff member as a military liaison, a webpage on the school’s website that includes resources for military students and families and a student-led transition program to assist military students in transitioning.
Schools are also required to offer professional development training opportunities for staff members on issues relating to military students, as well as reserve at least 5% of open enrollment seats for military-connected students in order to qualify.
“I am privileged to serve a district with a large population of service members, military dependents and veterans and a school district that supports them,” Maney, who is a retired Brigadier General in the U.S Army, said in a statement. “I hope this bill will showcase Florida’s many military friendly schools.”
The DOE is authorized to establish additional criteria to identify schools that demonstrate a commitment to or provide critical transition supports for military-connected families. The bill authorizes a school to partner with a school district to procure digital, professional development, or other assistance necessary to implement criteria under the program.
This legislation would make Florida the 10th state to develop and implement a Purple Star School Program.
The Senate version of the legislation (SB 938), sponsored by Brevard Republican Sen. Tom Wright, is expected to be heard by the upper chamber this Monday.