Major Victory for Homeschool Military Enlistees
- William A. Estrada, Esq. Director of Federal Relations
- 2014 8 Jan
On December 26, 2013, President Obama signed into law H.R. 3304, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The NDAA is passed by Congress annually to fund our nation’s military, pay our service members, purchase military equipment, and direct how the Pentagon operates over the coming year.
Over the past three years, HSLDA has worked with Congress to ensure that homeschool graduates have been able to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces without facing any discrimination because of how they were educated. We believe that this victory will finally close this chapter of the Pentagon’s discrimination against homeschool graduates and ensure that patriotic homeschool graduates will be able to serve their country in the U.S. Armed Forces.
In 2011, we worked with Congress to insert an amendment into the NDAA to ensure that homeschool graduates would be able to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces, and that they would be treated fairly during the enlistment process. This was a great victory, but unfortunately, the Pentagon failed to fully implement the policy as Congress intended, instead requiring homeschool enlistees to score higher on the military’s initial enlistment test than public and private school graduates.
Toward a Solution
In August of 2012, a bipartisan group of U.S. representatives sent a letter to the Pentagon demanding that officials eliminate this discriminatory policy, but the Pentagon ignored the letter. At this point, HSLDA determined that the only solution would be another amendment to the NDAA. Homeschoolers were able to enlist, but it was unacceptable that they needed to score higher than public and private school graduates on the military’s initial enlistment test.
Your HSLDA federal relations team met with members of Congress and their staff to urge them to again fight the Pentagon’s discrimination against homeschool graduates. This hard work came to fruition in June of 2013 when representatives John Kline (MN), Duncan Hunter (CA), Rob Andrews (NJ), and Jared Polis (CO) attached a bipartisan amendment to the House of Representatives' NDAA reauthorization requiring the Pentagon to have one single standard for all high school graduates who enlist in the military, regardless of how they were educated.
Our attention then turned to the Senate, and senators Lindsey Graham (SC) and Orrin Hatch (UT) introduced a similar amendment to the Senate’s NDAA. Although they faced a great deal of pushback from some fellow senators, they and their staff deserve huge credit for ultimately ensuring that the amendment would be included in the Senate’s NDAA.
Then, the unexpected happened. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and a block of Democrat senators invoked the so-called “nuclear option” and changed the rules of the Senate to make it harder for senators in the minority party to filibuster the president’s judicial and executive nominees. In the partisan atmosphere following the rule change, it became impossible for the Senate to pass its version of the NDAA. It looked like over a year of hard work was all for nothing.
However, it was imperative that the NDAA pass Congress. Military pay, benefits for the families of military personnel, and more was on the line. The NDAA had been passed annually for over 50 years, and both parties were determined to see it across the finish line. HSLDA began working closely with staff for representatives John Kline and Duncan Hunter to see if our language could still be included.
And thanks to representatives Kline and Hunter and their tireless work on behalf of homeschoolers, the House included our language in a modified NDAA bill which was then sent to the Senate. On the Senate side, senators Hatch and Graham and their staff worked incredibly hard behind the scenes to ensure that our language was not stripped out. Upon final passage, President Obama quickly signed the bill into law. Our language is found in Section 573.
HSLDA is grateful to see that homeschool freedom and equality is a bipartisan issue. Republicans and Democrats—culminating with President Obama’s signature on the bill—came together to ensure that homeschool graduates will be treated in the same way as graduates of public or private schools when they enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces.
HSLDA’s work is not done, however. It remains to be seen how the Pentagon will respond to the new law, and how military officials will change their current policies. It is very possible that the Pentagon will require all high school graduates to score 50 on the military’s initial enlistment test. Regardless of how the Pentagon responds, HSLDA is ready to help homeschool graduates who face discrimination when they seek to serve their nation. Please contact HSLDA if your child runs into problems with military enlistment due to the fact that your child was homeschooled.
Protect Your Family
If you aren’t yet a member of HSLDA, consider joining today! HSLDA’s work benefits homeschooolers in the United States and around the world. We invite you to participate in our ministry to the homeschool community. Join now.
Will Estrada has been leading our efforts to defend homeschooling on Capitol Hill since 2006. As the oldest of eight kids, and a homeschool graduate who married a homeschool graduate, he has a passion for protecting homeschool freedom.
Courtesy HSLDA. Used with permission.
Publication date: January 8, 2014