Georgia House passes bill to help military dependents transfer school credits

ATLANTA -- The Georgia House overwhelming passed a bill that will help ease the burden on military dependents as they transfer from secondary schools in different states.

"The military folks in Georgia, as well as Fort Benning, are very much in favor of this bill," Rep. Richard Smith, R-Columbus, said from the House well.

And it appears this one has a better shot to become law than a similar bill passed last year, but vetoed by Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Senate Bill 114 is a compromise that we offered that takes all the education policy prescriptions and puts them into Georgia law without forcing us to join an Interstate Compact requiring the state pay dues and potentially subject itself to litigation, according to a spokesman for the governor's office.

"Governor Perdue has personally spoken to the Secretary of the Army and many of Georgia’s military commanders about his preference to enact these reforms in state law and assure that these students are treated fairly," Bert Brantley said.

The bill will cut red tape for children of military personnel attending state schools. It would have standardized across state lines such things as course pre-requisites, immunization records and graduation requirements for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Ed Harbison, D-Columbus, passed 163-1, with all members of the Columbus delegation voting in favor of it.

In supporting the bill, Smith said it would make life a lot easier on military families. He used a couple of examples.

"If a student has taken a graduation test in another state and passed it, he would not have to take it in Georgia," Smith said. "If he has passed it in the state of Washington, California or Alabama, why should he have to retake it in Georgia?"

He also said course requirements from state to state can cause hardships on military dependents.

"Why take Georgia history when he has already taken and passed Idaho history?" Smith said.

He pointed out that some students could transfer as many as eight times during 12 years of school. And many times those transfers are across state lines.

"This bill was the No. 1 legislative priority of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce with BRAC coming in," Harbison said.

The move of the Armour School from Fort Knox to Fort Benning in the next two years and the addition of almost 10,000 new soldiers and their families to Columbus made the bill important, said Chamber of Commerce President Mike Gaymon.

"This is a big deal to the military families moving in here," Gaymon said. "We met with Fort Benning Commanding General Mike Barbero, and he said this was very important to him, Fort Benning and all military families.