Senate Passes SPEED Act to Support Military Families Relocating to Massachusetts

by | Nov 5, 2021

The Massachusetts Senate recently passed An Act relative to military spouse-licensure portability, education and enrollment of dependents, or SPEED Act, to support military families who relocate to the Commonwealth by providing career stability for the spouses of service members and quality education for their children.

“I believe it is our responsibility to ensure that military families who choose to call the Commonwealth home are given as much support as they need,” said Senator Michael Moore (D-Millbury). “The sacrifices made by service members and their families allow all of us to live freely, and it is only right that we give back to them any way we can. This bill demonstrates this commitment by making the transition easier for families who choose to relocate to the Commonwealth.”

The legislation would speed up the professional licensure process for military spouses to ensure they can continue their careers, allow for advanced and virtual enrollment for military children to resolve disruptions in education, provide in-state tuition continuity for military-connected college students, and establish a Purple Star Campus designation to identify public schools that show a major commitment to military families.

The SPEED Act would also help Massachusetts meet criteria used by the Department of Defense and military officials when considering basing assignments and federal investments for military installations.

On average, military members receive new orders to relocate every 24-36 months. This uprooting not only affects the service member, but it also affects their entire family as well. Military spouses and children move an average of six to nine times over the course of their service member’s career. About 185,000 military children move between schools annually and miss important registration and application periods. As a result, they may have to shift their planned course of study, take courses during summer school, or even be forced to graduate later. In addition, military-connected students also face social and emotional challenges that include leaving supportive friends and activities to start over at a new school.
Frequent moving pushes many military spouses to seek out portable professions, which often require a state-issued license. The current lengthy process of reapplying for licensing can lead military families to lose a second source of income and push many service members to considering leaving the military.

Components of the SPEED Act include:

Military Spouse-Licensure Portability
• Under this legislation, the Department of Occupational Licensure and Massachusetts Boards of Registration must accept a spouse’s application for licensure or notify of them of what criteria they did not meet within 30 days of applying, a timeframe recommended by the Department of Defense.
• The SPEED Act would codify this requirement into law.

Expedited Military Spouse Teacher Licenses
• Teachers are the most prevalent profession among military spouses.
• The SPEED Act will require the Commissioner of Education to issue military spouses teaching certificates if the spouse meets certain requirements, such as holding a valid teaching license from another state.

Advanced and Virtual Enrollment for Military Children
• The SPEED Act would waive proof of residency requirements and allow military families to register and enroll when their service member first receives relocation orders.
• Military children who are transferring mid-semester would be allowed to enroll in and attend one of the Commonwealth’s virtual schools to ensure there is no disruption in their education.

Purple Star Campus Designation
• The Purple Star Campus Program, administered by the Department of Education, would identify public schools that show a major commitment to students and families connected to our nation’s military.
• To receive the designation, schools would have to meet a number of different criteria, including designating school staff as a point of contact for military students and families, designating a page on its website with resources for military families, and maintaining a transition program for military students.
• The Purple Star School Program not only encourages schools and districts to increase their supports for military families, but it also helps families identify schools that are best prepared to meet their needs.

In-State Tuition Continuity for Military-Connected College Students
• Currently, a child or spouse of an active-duty service member in Massachusetts can lose in-state tuition eligibility if the military sponsor is assigned to move out of the state.
• The SPEED Act, through passage of an amendment during debate, would also ensure that a military-connected student receiving a letter of acceptance shall be deemed an in-state resident for purposes of determining tuition and fees

The bill now goes to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration.