Dear Military Families:

School attendance has been identified as a serious issue for children throughout the United States and military children are no exception. Specific attendance concerns include increased chronic absenteeism and tar­diness as well as excessive early dismissals. In addition, many military Families also pull their children out of school prior to deployments, upon return from deploy­ments and on mid-tour breaks for extended periods of time to reconnect.

While not technically an attendance issue, but rather a “time in school” issue, children are also often out of school for extended periods during permanent changes of station. I am urging all personnel to make school at­tendance for your children a priority.

The Department of Defense respects and understands the need of Families to take time off together around deployments to reintegrate and bond. Multiple and extended deployments cause stress and hardships for Families and the additional time together is important

to our Families.

While it is appropriate for Families to reintegrate and for students to be out of school for a time, it is also critical to balance this with the educational needs of our students.

Extended periods of time away from school can set students back significantly and cause delays in ascen­sion to the next grade and even graduation. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, recently released a letter to public school superintendents urging them to be mind­ful of the needs of military Families, while also stressing the importance of the need for children to be in school as much as possible. I fully support this message and appreciate his efforts on behalf of military Families.

Students of military Families need to be in school, but in the situations when they are not, they should have a plan to catch up on educational material missed. We must be mindful of this and work with school officials to ensure our students are prepared to be successful in their careers, leading contributors in their communities and productive citizens in the 21st century.