Homeschool Graduates Enlisting in the Military Are Protected
By Christopher J. Klicka
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #70, 2006.
Success in getting homeschoolers considered for military service, and the results once they're in.
There is more good news for homeschooler graduates seeking to enlist in the Armed Services! With the technical and practical assistance of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), a federal law has been passed that prevents homeschoolers from being treated as second-class citizens when they seek to gain entry into the Army, Navy, Marines, or Air Force.
Currently no discrimination is being practiced against homeschool graduates through any formal policies in the military. This new law will virtually eliminate any remaining concerns.
HSLDA was also instrumental in adding an amendment to the Defense Reauthorization bill, which passed this year and was signed by the President in January 2006. The amendment essentially codified the previous arrangement we had reached with the Department of Defense (described below) to ensure that homeschoolers continue to have a preferred enlistment status and that they will not be discriminated against when they seek entry into the military.
Our amendment is in Section 522 of Senate Bill 1042. It requires the Secretary of Defense to create a uniform policy for recruiting homeschool graduates for all four Armed Services. This new law declares that "graduates of home schooling have no practical limit with regard to enlistment eligibility." Furthermore, the law makes it clear homeschoolers do not have to obtain a GED, which carries the stigma of being a dropout.
Homeschool graduates who desire a career with any of the four armed services are designated as "preferred enlistees." This means that homeschool graduates who enlist in the military will be treated as if they are Tier I candidates even though their formal status will remain Tier II. Therefore, homeschoolers will receive the same educational benefits, cash bonuses, and available positions in the armed services as regular Tier I candidates.
Previous Years of Discrimination
HSLDA has been working with the military for several years to remove discriminatory barriers for homeschool graduates.
Prior to 1998, homeschool graduates seeking enlistment in the military were relegated to the same status as high school dropouts because they were not considered high school graduates. This discrimination limited homeschoolers to very few available openings in the armed services and less benefits. Most were being denied enlistment.
However, in 1998, in the Defense Authorization bill, I succeeded, with the leadership and vision of Rep. Hostettler and Senator Coverdell, in attaching a 5-year pilot project for homeschoolers to be automatically admitted as Tier I candidates, which is the same status as high school graduates from the public school. In 2004, the pilot project was extended for one year in the hope the Pentagon would make it permanent.
Tainted Homeschooler Statistics
The Center for Naval Analysis did a study on attrition rates of homeschoolers during only the first year of the pilot project. This was the only study and it was done from the statistics gathered.
Unfortunately, the statistics were tainted. The recruiters were taking anybody and everybody. In fact, the military caught and prosecuted recruiters in Chicago who let in over 300 fraudulent "homeschoolers." Dropouts were calling themselves "homeschoolers" to explain why they never received a diploma from their public school and those recruiters were letting them get away with it, not requiring any evidence they were homeschooled. All those frauds, and similar indiscriminate recruiting of so called "homeschoolers" throughout the country that went undetected, skewed the results of the study.
Yet the study still showed that homeschoolers who scored above 50 on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) had attrition rates equal to high school graduates. In other words, it would be easy to separate dropouts posing as homeschoolers from genuine homeschoolers by simply checking the test scores and inquiring further if the scores were low.
Pilot Project Not Renewed But Quick Action Keeps Door Open for Homeschoolers
Although the pilot project continued until October 2004, it was not renewed because of the skewed statistics.
I contacted a special counsel to President Bush and explained our plight. He arranged a meeting for us with the Assistant Secretary of Defense and a few other Pentagon officials a month later. Michael Smith and I came to the meeting in the midst of a rain storm. In spite of being soaked to the skin, we hammered out a solution.
As a result, in January 2005, the Department of Defense issued a letter stating that homeschoolers were considered "preferred enlistees" and that there were no "practical limits" to the numbers of homeschoolers who could obtain entrance into the armed services. At that point, the Department of Defense, at the highest levels, began working with HSLDA to resolve every problem at the local recruitment level with homeschool graduates!
As a result of the 1998-2004 pilot project and the January 2005 directive from the Department of Defense, thousands of homeschoolers are serving our country faithfully in the armed services.
Now, the new federal law insures this progress will continue.
Homeschool graduates will not be discriminated against as they seek military enlistment.
True Stories of Homeschoolers Achieving High Marks in the Military
Emily Cole was the first homeschool graduate to enter the New Hampshire Air National Guard, back in 2000 (with some help from HSLDA). She has gone on to be the first Guardsman in 20 years to win the "International First Term Airman of the Year," which is issued by the Air Force Sergeants Association.
Second Lieutenant Emily F. Cole is now an intelligence officer. Her parents schooled her at home through high school.
Emily also mobilized her home station in support of Operation NOBLE
EAGLE and deployed to Qatar in July 2003 in support of Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM.
She was commissioned as an Air Force second lieutenant at the Academy of Military Science and ranked third out of 91 graduates.
Daniel Jackson was homeschooled since the third grade. Daniel received an appointment to the United States Air Force Academy - his goal since 6th grade! He also was offered over $200,000 in academic and leadership scholarships at the three universities he's applied to. The mother ended her letter saying "Praising God because HOMESCHOOLING WORKS!!!!"
The Jung family sent HSLDA another testimony testifying to the effectiveness of the new recruitment directives regarding homeschoolers.
"My 17-year-old son, who was homeschooled on our mission field of Japan his whole life, recently tried to join the Navy, but was told his home school had to be "accredited"! The recruiter wouldn't listen to my explanations, but he sat up and took notice when I handed him a copy of the law regarding this matter, which I downloaded from the HSLDA web site. Thank you so much!
Once we submitted my son's diploma, transcript, and course descriptions the Federal Education Reviewer called to quiz me further. I felt a little apprehensive, knowing that they do not seem to look favorably on homeschooled recruits. But the first thing the reviewer said was, "This is the best transcript and education I have ever seen documented in all my years as a Federal Educational Reviewer!" And she went on to congratulate us for educating our son so well.
The 'cherry on the cake' was when my son, who is the youngest in his boot camp, placed first in his division on the several tests he was given. [He] is being awarded the academic excellence award for the boot camp!"
The HSLDA web site lists hundreds of homeschoolers who are serving the USA in Iraq as a result of the changes in the law since 1998. See www.hslda.org/hsiraq.asp