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From the Trenches

By Chris Klicka
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #30, 1999.

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Chris Klicka


Does your homeschooled kid want to join the military? We have good news for you! After many years, all four of the armed services have finally removed all obstacles for homeschool graduates to enlist. Homeschoolers are welcome to serve in the armed forces. But this positive atmosphere was not always so.

Before the enactment of new federal laws creating a five-year pilot project, discrimination against homeschoolers seeking enlistment was the policy. In simple terms, homeschoolers were considered by the military as dropouts.

Here is a typical scenario prior to the new law: After being homeschooled most of his life, John graduates and decides to follow his father's footsteps and join the Air Force. He sets up an appointment with the local Air Force recruiter where he passes the military aptitude test with a score of 95 percent. He only had to score 40 percent. He passes all other eligibility requirements. The recruiter is excited and tells him he will sign him up for basic training. John's parents plan a surprise "going away party" for him to celebrate his acceptance into the Air Force. Then the phone rings. It is the recruiter with bad news. He explains that he checked with his superior and since John's homeschool diploma is not accredited, there is no place for him in the Air Force. As result, John is hurt and gives up on his hope of a promising military career.

This happened hundreds of times over during the past decade, as homeschoolers were turned away from enlisting in the military simply because they did not have high-school diplomas from an accredited school. Therefore, all four branches of the armed services relegated potential homeschool recruits to Tier II status, which is reserved for high-school dropouts. Tier I was reserved for high-school graduates and those with some college. (For most of the armed services, Tier I candidates only have to score 31 on the military's aptitude test while Tier II candidates have to score 50.)

This made it very difficult for homeschoolers, especially since the Air Force and Marines decided in 1998 that they would accept only Tier I candidates. Only about 10 percent of all Navy and Army enlistees were Tier II candidates. We at the Homeschool Legal Defense Association were inundated with testimonies from homeschoolers who scored over the 90th percentile on the military's aptitude test, met all the military's eligibility requirements, and yet were rejected simply because they did not have an accredited diploma.

Finally, by God's grace, we were able to achieve a solution at the federal level. I contacted Senator Paul Coverdell's office and asked if they would help us, since Senator Coverdell served on the Armed Services Committee. This resulted in Senator Coverdell introducing an amendment to H.R. 3616, the Defense Authorization bill, to end this discrimination against homeschoolers. The bill created a five-year pilot project automatically placing homeschool recruits into the Tier I status. Each of the four armed services (Marines, Navy, Army, and Air Force) must annually allow up to 1,250 homeschool diploma recipients to be considered under the Tier I status along with all other high school graduates.

The bill passed the Senate, the conference committee, and subsequently passed both the House and Senate. The President signed the bill into law on October 17, 1998. It became effective immediately.

The most important sections of the new law state:

Sec. 571. Pilot Program for Treating GED and Homeschool Diploma Recipients As High School Graduates for Determinations of Eligibility for Enlistment in the Armed Forces.

. . . (b) Persons Eligible Under the Pilot Program as High School Graduates. Under the pilot program, a person shall be treated as having graduated from high school with a high school diploma for the purpose described in subsection (a) if

. . . (2) the person is a homeschool diploma recipient and provides a transcript demonstrating completion of high school to the military department involved under the pilot program.

(c) GED and Homeschool Diploma Recipients. For the purposes of this section

. . . (2) a person is a homeschool diploma recipient if the person has received a diploma for completing a program of education through the high school level at a homeschool, without regard to whether the homeschool is treated as a private school under the law of the State in which located.

Under this new law, homeschoolers seeking enlistment in one of the four branches of the military must provide a high school diploma, a high school transcript, pass the military aptitude test, and meet any physical and other eligibility requirements for recruitment applicable to all enlistees.

This means military recruiters must accept a homeschool diploma or transcript regardless of the teacher's relationship to the student. Furthermore, a transcript or diploma prepared by the parent, as well as a high school diploma or transcript issued by a non-accredited homeschool correspondence course, satisfies the law's intent. No additional educational documentation is required.

Homeschool students seeking to enlist in the any of the four armed forces cannot be rejected, as in the past, simply on the basis of not possessing an accredited high school diploma. (HSLDA will continue to assist any member families who have difficulty with local recruiters who may not understand the new law).

According to W.S. Sellman, Director of Accession Policy at the Pentagon, all that is necessary to demonstrate academic eligibility is for the homeschool graduate to produce a "letter from a parent with a list of completed coursework." This letter is significant, since the Director of Accession is in charge of the recruitment policy for each of the armed forces.

In response to the new federal law, the Army has announced, "Young men and women who gain their high school diploma through homeschooling can now receive the same Army benefits as those students who graduate from a traditional high school." Homeschool graduates can now receive an enlistment bonus of $12,000 for enlistment in certain military occupational specialties and up to $40,000 from the Army College Fund for college tuition.

The Navy wasted no time making a new policy. "Effective immediately, a person with a homeschool diploma will be classified as being in a Tier I status for enlistment purposes . . . A homeschool applicant can score 31 or greater on the ASVB\AFQT."

In fact, the Navy has reported that over 600 homeschool graduates have already been enlisted in the Navy since October 1998, compared to less than 100 homeschooled enlistees over the last three years! The pilot project is indeed working.

The other branches are also in the process of opening their doors. Brig. General Sutton, charged with leading the Air Force Recruiting Service, announced, "We want to reach out to homeschoolers and let them know they have a place in our nation's Air Force." They are now recognizing homeschoolers as high-school graduates. The Marines are expected to issue formal recruitment policy changes soon in light of the new law.

Homeschoolers, by the grace of God, now have the right to compete on equal footing with other high school graduates seeking entrance into the military.


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