J. Michael Smith, President Michael P. Farris, Chairman
 
 
October 16, 2003

Federal Law Allows For Homeschoolers to Enter Military

Over the years, home schoolers have had difficulty entering the military because they did not have high school diplomas from an accredited school. All branches of the armed forces relegated potential home school 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 forces, 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 home schoolers, especially since the Air Force and Marines decided had decided that they would accept only Tier I candidates. Only about 10% of all Navy and Army enlistees were Tier II candidates.HSLDA was inundated with testimonies from home schoolers 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.

HSLDA persuaded Senator Coverdell to introduce an amendment to H.R. 3616, the Defense Authorization bill to end this discrimination against home schoolers. The bill creates a five-year pilot project automatically placing home school recruits into the Tier I status. Each of the armed forces must allow up to 1,250 home school 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 states:

Sec. 571.  PILOT PROGRAM FOR TREATING GED AND HOME SCHOOL 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 home school diploma recipient and provides a transcript demonstrating completion of high school to the military department involved under the pilot program.

(c) GED and Home School Diploma Recipients.—For the purposes of this section—

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

Under this new law, home schoolers 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.

This means military recruiters must accept a home school diploma or transcript regardless of the teachers’ 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 home school correspondence course satisfies the law’s intent. No additional educational documentation is required.

Home school 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 home school graduate to produce a “letter from a parent with a list of completed coursework.” (See attached letter). 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 home schooling can now receive the same Army benefits as those students who graduate from a traditional high school.” Home school 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 home school diploma will be classified as being in a Tier I status for enlistment purposes ... A home school applicant can score 31 or greater on the ASVB\AFQT.”

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 They now recognize homeschoolers as high school graduates. The Marines have also made changes to their policies to allow for the recruitment of homeschool students. Unfortunately, this five-year pilot program was due for expiration on September 30, 2003, causing many homeschool recruits to face renewed difficulty in enlisting, as military recruiters assumed the program was ending. Anticipating this need, Home School Legal Defense Association Senior Counsel, Chris Klicka, worked behind the scenes with the White House and the Military Recruiting Command to ensure the continuance of Tier I status for homeschoolers in the military. This pressure convinced the Department of Defense to extend the pilot program for another year while the Center for Naval Analysis conducts a study of the success of homeschoolers in the military. Thus, homeschoolers will continue to be eligible for Tier I status through September 30, 2004. This will keep the doors wide open for homeschoolers who seek to serve their country. Meanwhile, HSLDA will continue to work with the Department of Defense and we expect homeschoolers to be given Tier I status permanently, either by the military or by Congress.

Reprint permission granted. Prepared by the legal staff of the National Center for Home Education, P.O. Box 3000, Purcellville, VA 20134, (540) 338-7600