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Missouri adds Purple Star Campus designation to schools aiding military-connected children, a DOD request

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — School districts that implement plans to aid military-connected children — such as establishing transition programs or recognizing military holidays — can be designated as a Purple Star Campus under a new law signed by Gov. Mike Parson Wednesday. 

To qualify as a Purple Star Campus, school districts must designate a staff member to serve as a liaison between the school and the military-connected students and their families, identify appropriate services and coordinate programs for military-connected students, establish a transition program to aid the military-connected students, and offer professional development and education for staff members regarding military-connected students. 

State Sen. Bill White

Districts must also maintain an easily accessible website that includes information regarding registration and transferring records, academic planning, and counseling and support services offered. The school must also offer a resolution in support of military-connected students and families, recognize military holidays with appropriate school events, or partner with a local military installation for volunteer events, field trips, or other activities. 

The designation will be determined by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). 

“One of the things we try to do is make our state very military-friendly,” Sen. Bill White, a U.S. Marine veteran and the SB 120 sponsor, said in an interview. “When you’ve been in the military and moved around, it’s a hassle checking in and checking out [of schools] every few years. This is a very good program that schools can voluntarily do. This will make transitions for the students so much easier for them and their families.” 

The Purple Star Campus program is a “key issue” for the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Defense-State Liasion Office, a spokesperson said. 

“The department applauds Missouri’s decision to approve of the Purple Star Program as a way of giving schools added incentive to care for military children in their districts and to recognize the importance of military service through the nation,” Lisa Lawrence, a DOD spokesperson, told The Missouri Times. “Through this program, schools are rewarded for meeting criteria that address such issues as gaps and overlaps in the courses being taught, differing graduation requirements, and social and emotional challenges.” 

Missouri National Guard changes

Missouri National Guard
The Missouri National Guard assisted in keeping the peace during a rally in front of the Missouri Capitol on June 1, 2020. (THE MISSOURI TIMES/KAITLYN SCHALLHORN)

Additionally, White’s SB 120 moves the Missouri National Guard to its own department instead of keeping it under the Department of Public Safety’s umbrella. White said the move would allow the National Guard to better compete for budget items and implement a “more proper chain of command” with the adjutant general in a Cabinet-level position. 

This change would be contingent upon voters’ approval of a constitutional amendment. That language would need to be worked on during the next legislative session, White said. 

The bill also classifies Missouri National Guard members as state employees to use state vehicles — an issue that came to light during the COVID-19 pandemic. As National Guard members deployed across Missouri to assist with coronavirus testing or vaccination efforts, they were not allowed to use available trucks from the transportation or conservation departments. Instead, they had to use their own, more expansive vehicles or rent cars. 

“This is a common-sense, money-saving measure,” White said. 

Another provision, championed by Democratic Sen. Doug Beck, instructs state agencies to grant current or former members of the National Guard interviews for state employment jobs if he or she is qualified for the position. 

“The women and men of the Missouri National Guard are not only highly skilled servicemembers — they’re also excellent employees. Connecting these men and women in uniform with good jobs here at home will strengthen our workforce and show that Missouri cares about its service members,” Beck told The Missouri Times. “My legislation will make sure that when there is an opening in state employment, qualified members and veterans of the Missouri National Guard are included in the hiring pool. I am proud of the bipartisan support this legislation received, and I am glad it has been signed into law.”

The bill designates November as “Military Family Month” and adds certain military projects to the Missouri Works Program — the latter of which contains an emergency clause.