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The Department of Education: Our Commitment to Supporting Military Families

The U.S. Department of Education joins agencies across the government to support service members and their families, as part of First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden’s Joining Forces initiative.

Our country’s safety and prosperity relies on the everyday commitment and sacrifice of our nation’s military members and their families. That’s why the U.S. Department of Education is proud to join agencies across the government in participating in First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden’s Joining Forces initiative, which seeks to mobilize all sectors of society to better support service members and their families.

Military families face unique challenges. They and their children often deal with high rates of student mobility, as well as emotional and personal stress caused by deployments and other military assignments. Our Department has taken steps to better meet these needs by providing important guidance to states and districts and by working to better direct the flow of federal resources.

Department of Education Arne Duncan visits with military families

Department of Education Arne Duncan visits with military families at a Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, August 31, 2010. Secretary Duncan talked with military families about the difficulties they face in providing their children with a consistently top-notch education as they move around our country and the world in our nation’s service. (

To provide military members ample time with their families before, during and after deployment, some school districts have developed policies and practices for excused absences while maintaining high educational standards. We want to encourage schools to be flexible in balancing educational needs with family responsibilities, which is why we’ve provided guidance to all school district superintendents and chief state school officers on effective practices related to military-connected children and public school attendance policies. 

As part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we’re seeking out new means of collecting and reporting data on the performance of military-connected children. This data will help determine and direct educational and counseling resources to address the impact of deployments and other stress factors often experienced by military families. 

We also want to make sure that federal funds meet the educational needs of service members, military spouses, military-connected children, and veterans. For the first time ever, the U.S. Department of Education has established a priority for military families in our discretionary grant programs to ensure that they are receiving the support they need to access and make the most of educational opportunities. We’re also working to improve our Impact Aid program by providing funds based on current year population data when districts face an influx of student enrollment resulting from military base realignment.

In February, our Office of Postsecondary Education sent a Dear Colleague Letter to remind financial aid administrators of their ability to exercise documented professional judgment when determining eligibility of students for federal student aid. The letter encourages administrators to consider the special circumstances military families face, and reminds them to take into consideration the treatment of combat pay when evaluating a student's financial aid package.

These are just a few examples of the many ways agencies across the Administration are working together to give back to military families. Whether in combat, at home, or in school, military families deserve every support possible to be successful. We look forward to continuing our efforts toward these commitments so we can recognize the tremendous sacrifice our military families make every day, honor their courageous work and provide them with the support they’ve earned.  

Arne Duncan is the U.S. Secretary of Education

To learn more about the U.S. Department of Education’s commitments and initiatives to support military families, please visit