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Military spouse testifies at State Capital

HB 1210 will make school registration easier for military kids

Whitney Thrasher-Stafford, with children Liam and Dillon (in arms), advocates for military families. Photo provided by Whitney Thrasher-Stafford

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Whitney Thrasher-Stafford, mediator and social worker, is also an Army spouse who, like many military spouses, was frustrated with two of the main issues that affect military families when they PCS to a new duty station, education for military children and spouse employment. She recently appeared at a Public Hearing at the Washington State Legislature to testify for HB 1210-2019-20, which would allow non-resident children from military families to enroll in Washington's public schools prior to arrival in the state.

"For military families, the stress of transferring children to a new school that requires proof of residency before enrollment can be overwhelming and even delay getting your kids into class. For a child moving to a new state, school can be the best way to integrate into a community, make friends, and establish a sense of normalcy. Removing stress and creating a more seamless process by allowing conditional acceptance is a common sense and easy way to help military families transition to Washington," said Rep. Christine Kilduff, one of the bill's sponsors.

Thrasher-Stafford said, "I have become very intentional in advocating for military families because this is my community. I made a habit of tracking bills through the legislature that are relevant to my community. While searching for bills to support this session, I found HB 1210, and this just seemed like such a logical change to make. HB 1210 is a great example of a simple, but effective, policy change that can really make a world of difference for a military family."  

As one would imagine, testifying at a public hearing can be a nerve-wracking experience. "When I first started doing this, of course it was a bit intimidating. What I have come to realize is that there is absolutely nothing to be intimidated by. The State Legislature, and the forums like it, are intended to give citizens a platform to advocate for change. We should be using it for that purpose. The experience is no big deal, really; it's a few minutes to speak your truth and share your experience with the people who can help make changes," she said.

When Thrasher-Stafford faced an employment process that discriminated against her for being a military spouse, she was fed up. "This was after having switched career tracks a couple of times to find more flexible work that fit our lifestyle. I suppose I just had enough. We needed a second income, I was doing everything right, and still my worth to others was being determined by my spouse's career. The worst part was that I knew I was not the only one. It just seemed so unfair, asinine even," she said.

Eventually she was hired by the Center for Dialog & Resolution, which encouraged her to share her story of employment discrimination with visiting Congressman, Denny Heck. "He was very gracious in hearing me out, and his office connected me with local Representatives, one of which was Representative Christine Kilduff. She sat down with me one day in a coffee shop to hear my story, and then I supported a proposed bill that resulted from our coffee shop meeting. It's all taken off from there. Once I realized how accessible the process is, and how out of touch the narrative of military families is, I knew I had to start using my voice to advocate for effective changes. I am constantly faced with this imagery of a WWII spouse who is keeping the home fires burning while I pine for my spouse. Military life is not a romantic love story. It's hard. Many of the policies that exist simply aren't cutting it for military families. We need an updated narrative, and we need effective policies," she added.

For more information on bills relating to the military, visit: and search for "military."

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