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Personal Assistance 3


Recommendation

The Comptroller’s office and other interested state agencies will coordinate private sector donations of computers, wiring and Internet accounts to help children of military personnel stay in touch with parents on active duty.


Summary

War is a family affair. Children of active military personnel are highly vulnerable to stress caused by parental absence.[1] The stress of parental absence may in turn affect the academic performance and school attendance of these children. For example, one Department of Defense study of students during the Gulf War indicated that children who had parents on active duty demonstrated higher levels of stress-related behaviors, including aggression, crying, low grades and absenteeism.[2]

Military families studied during the Gulf War often reported emotional distress caused by additional strains on the family budget, including the cost of long distance telephone calls to loved ones overseas.[3] These families also reported stress due to a lack of communication, including mail problems. Soldiers on active duty did not receive mail for significant periods of time, despite daily letters from their families. Mail that was received was often written weeks or even months earlier. Telephone calls were limited to a few minutes, due to the large demand.[4]

Today’s technology can resolve some of the communication difficulties experienced by families during the Gulf War. For example, e-mail communications may be delivered instantaneously in a manner that eliminates long-distance telephone bills. Increased communications with active military parents via e-mail may in turn alleviate some of the stress military children experience due to parental absence.

Most Texas school districts currently have some degree of Internet connectivity. For example, a statewide survey of school districts conducted by Texas A&M University for the Texas Association of School Boards found that 97 percent of the responding districts had Internet connections at the elementary level, 96 percent at the middle school level and 94 percent at the high school level.[5] However, a campus is considered to be “connected to the Internet” if there is access via a single computer in an administrator’s office, a site usually not available for student use.

The Comptroller and other interested state agencies will coordinate private sector donations of computers, wiring and Internet accounts to improve student access to the technology that will enable them to remain in contact with absent military parents.



Fiscal Impact

The Comptroller and other state agencies interested in participating in this effort can reassign existing personnel to coordinate volunteer donations of computers, wiring and Internet accounts from the private sector. These donations will be made to school district campuses that educate children of active military personnel, where they can be placed in areas such as school libraries in order to provide the greatest access. These resources will be available primarily to children of active service personnel during the country’s current military engagement, but may be available to all students for learning activities once the war is over.


[1] Leora Rosen, Doris Durand and James Martin, “Wartime Stress and Family Adaptation,” in The Military Family, A Practice Guide for Human Service Providers, edited by James Martin, Leora Rosen, and Linette Sparacino (Westport, Connecticut, 2000), p. 125.

[2] “Desert Storm, Various Association Activities During the Persian Gulf,” Association Management, May 1991, p. 102.

[3] Leora Rosen, Doris Durand and James Martin, “Wartime Stress and Family Adaptation,” p. 127.

[4] Leora Rosen, Doris Durand and James Martin, “Wartime Stress and Family Adaptation,” p. 125.

[5] Jon Denton, Trina Davis and Arlen Strader, “2000 Texas Public School Technology Survey,” April 8, 2001: http://www.tasanet.org/resources/tech%20survey/techsurvey.html.