Alabama establishes program to recognize military-friendly K-12 schools

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Christina Karvwnaris
  • Air University Academic Outreach Office

Soon it will be easier for military parents assigned to Maxwell-Gunter AFB to identify schools that support their children’s needs before ever setting foot on base through the new Purple Star School Program. Last month, Alabama was the 13th state to pass legislation establishing a Purple Star Schools Program and Committee. According to the resolution, the program will recognize public K-12 schools that are especially committed to the successful transition and support of military students and their families. 

“The Purple Star Schools Program shows Alabama’s continued support to military communities across the state,” said Lt. Gen. James Hecker, Air University commander and president. “We are thankful to the Military Stability Commission, who championed this K-12 recognition program to help military parents find supportive schools in the area and ease the transition for military connected children.”

Ohio established the first Purple Star Schools program in 2017. Since then, according to the Defense State Liaison Office, 12 other states have established their own programs and 11 states have pending legislation. Alabama might not have embraced the concept so quickly, had it not been for the work of Air University’s Public K-12 Education Working Group. Hecker charged this body to “identify, recommend, and implement ways to improve public K-12 educational options for military-connected children in the River Region.” Two members of the group, Dr. Patricia Maggard and Mrs. Kristen Morgan, took this guidance to heart. 

After first hearing about Purple Star Schools, they researched how other states implemented their programs. As a mother of two school age children, Morgan understands the struggles of a PCS firsthand: “I see a Purple Star School as one that welcomes my kids with open arms. A school that knows how to help them, and us, navigate the complicated issues we face when PCS’ing.” She believes this will be helpful for other military parents looking for quality educational options.

Other states’ Purple Star Schools Programs help students settle into their new surroundings through inclusion and mentoring programs. They also provide teachers and staff professional development about the educational and social/emotional challenges faced by many military-connected students. Finally, to achieve Purple Star designation in most states, a school must have a military liaison and embrace the Interstate Compact On Educational Opportunity For Military Children. The Purple Star School Programs are designed as a community effort, bringing military families and educators together and supporting each other.

The Working Group conveyed Maggard and Morgan’s findings to the Alabama Military Stability Foundation, a non-profit organization that works to strengthen the state’s military assets and infrastructure. The Foundation proposed establishing a similar program in Alabama to the state’s Military Stability Commission. A joint resolution to establish the Alabama Purple Star School Program and Committee was introduced in the state legislature on Feb. 2, 2021. Both chambers passed the resolution by voice vote and the governor signed it into law nine days later. 

More information about school options and the efforts by the working group and community can be found here.