Military Members Seek School Choice

School choice

(David Boyle is board chair of the Alaska Policy Forum. He and his wife have 45 years of Air Force experience. His words follow).

“We got orders, and we’re moving this summer.”

As a veteran, I can tell you these can be some of the most challenging words a military member can utter to their family.

Reactions can range from, “Not again. We just got here,” to, “Great news! I hate this place.” Relocating to an unfamiliar place is daunting in itself. Choosing a place to live with schools in mind is even more so.

We face a lot. The movers come and pack things – some of which we might never see again. Likewise, our kids pack up their lives to probably never see their friends and classmates again. Our children feel like their friendships and social lives may never be the same. On top of that, our kids also must adapt and survive in new classrooms.

In many cases, some spouses remain in their current location, so their children can complete a school year after receiving relocation orders. Some spouses even stay put until their kids finish high school, which can take years. Uncertainty of the quality of education in the next place is enough for some families to feel they have no better option than to brave the hardships that such a distance can bring.

The challenge often begins with new neighborhood schools that may have a different curriculum, different sports programs, no advanced placement classes or fewer course options than families’ previous schools. Military kids lose the continuity of a curriculum.

Our children could use much more stability, and many schooling alternatives, including distance learning, charter networks, virtual learning and even home schools could provide that as kids move from place to place.

Those alternatives are not available everywhere – a problem for families that move frequently from state to state. It’s a problem that could be solved, however, with education savings accounts (ESAs) – a flexible type of school choice – provided at the federal level. And why not? These parents are actually federal employees. In this way, military families would have more opportunities to ensure continuity in their children’s education. After all, our kids need that stability in what, to most, would be a disruptive life.

ESAs allow parents to access the public funds already set aside for their children’s education. Those funds – often distributed to families via a restricted-use debit card – can cover private school tuition and fees, online learning programs, educational therapies, private tutoring, community college costs, higher education expenses and other approved customized learning services and materials. ESAs could even allow families to use their funds to pay for a combination of public school courses and private services, depending on their children’s needs.

A 2017 Surveying the Military (https://www.edchoice.org/blog/new-2017-survey-finds-military-veteran-families-want-americas-k-12-education-system/) report by EdChoice found young military/veteran parents and especially active-duty military parents are more likely than their counterparts to have already sought schooling options beyond a neighborhood public school for their kids. Not only that, but the vast majority of military-connected families said they support programs like ESAs and for good reasons. Mostly, they want access to better academic environments, more flexibility as parents and more individual attention for their kids.

While serving, my wife and I relocated our kids to five different state school districts in a 10-year period. I can say that finding that “good neighborhood with good schools” in which to rent or buy a home is a formidable task.

I remember arriving in a new location. I asked a friend who was already stationed there, “Is X school a good school?” She said it was. Later on, my son told me, “Dad, I was sure glad to see you pick me up every day after school.” I came to find that his school was a dismal failure, and my son actually feared for his safety every day! What an eye opener that was. (But, hey, he got straight As.)

How does a military family get current, valid, reliable data on a local school system?

The military base or post does not provide any information on the performance of local schools. The real estate industry provides some, although it’s dated and inaccurate. Most military families get their information from friends and by word of mouth. In my experience, that was not a very good source to determine my child’s future.

This information vacuum needs to be filled to help military families find the best fit for their children’s educational needs.

Happy Veterans Day! Did You Know Tax Credits are Available for Hiring Veterans?

37738634Veterans, National Guard Members and Reservists remain key assets in helping meet workforce needs.

A free publication for employers, prepared for the Center for America, provides clear and concise understanding along with step-by-step guidance on four new federal tax credit programs: Returning Heroes; Wounded Warrior; Activated Military Reservist Credit for Small Businesses; and the Federal Empowerment Zone Employment Credit.

The guide includes links to the required Internal Revenue Service and Department of Labor forms employers need to submit. It features key eligibility and filing details, with guidance on eligibility and the specific steps to take to claim the credits.

American Jobs for America’s Heroes is a nonprofit campaign sponsored by Phillips 66 and foundations to encourage employers to post full-time jobs for veterans, National Guard members and Reservists. Access the guide and additional information.

Seeking Government Answers

If you are not receiving timely responses from written queries to the federal government, join the crowd. Washington is not known for being nimble, but agencies respond differently according to the Center for Effective Government. Here’s a brief breakdown:

  • Especially slow: Department of Veterans Affairs, State Department, Securities and Exchange Commission, Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration
  • High marks: Agriculture Department and Social Security Administration
    Congress will try to move the biggest offenders, but Kiplinger reminds that “the bureaucracy, after all, is still the bureaucracy. Making agencies more responsive is sure to take time.”

Fill Your Employment Needs at Veteran Career Fair

side profile of man saluting the American flag

The Operation Hire a Hoosier Vet career fair is coming to the Indiana State Fairgrounds on April 20. The event, in its 10th year, is the largest career fair in the Midwest focused on veterans, service members and their families.

More than 500 job seekers and up to 200 actively hiring employers are expected to participate. This is an excellent opportunity for employers to try and meet their workforce needs with talented Indiana veterans.

The fair takes place from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Agriculture/Horticulture Building. A separate job preparedness workshop is scheduled for 5-8 p.m. on April 13. Additional information and registration is available at www.ohhv.org.

Survey Seeks to Assist in Veteran Hiring

sThere are still more than one million veterans looking for full-time jobs with tens of thousands of soldiers leaving the military in 2016. Many employers aren’t getting the right information and networking help they need to successfully hire veterans, Reservists and National Guard members.

Center for America (CFA), a nonprofit, is conducting a national survey among employers to identify the specific problems that employers in different industries and locations are having in recruiting military candidates. CFA is funded by foundations and Phillips 66, so it is providing its help to associations and employers at no cost.

“We realize many resources to help employers hire veterans are too general, too complicated or too costly to really help them find and hire military candidates,” said Brig. Gen. (ret) Marianne Watson, director of Outreach for Center for America. “So, CFA is developing free, industry-specific networking and web-based education resources to make it easier and faster for employers to connect with the right military candidates.

“We are asking for your help to complete a 10-minute online questionnaire – anonymously if you wish – that will identify the challenges you’re having in hiring veterans,” said General Watson. “Hundreds of employers from all over the country are participating.”

Here is the link: www.surveymonkey.com/r/36PW85F_CFA (In the first question, please input the code – G444.)

CFA has been coordinating the American Jobs for America’s Heroes national campaign for four years under a written agreement with the Army National Guard in Washington, D.C.

Contact Steve Nowlan (snowlan@CenterForAmerica.org), president of Center for America and coordinator for the American Jobs for American Heroes campaign, with any questions or for free help with your veteran recruiting. Get a head start by downloading a free copy of CFA’s Best Practices Guide for Veteran Hiring at www.CenterForAmerica.org/bpg.html.

Guides Provide Best Practices in Military Hiring

side profile of man saluting the American flag

With more than one million soldiers leaving the military in the next five years in addition to those currently looking for civilian jobs, veterans will continue to be a critical source of trained employees to fill the “skills gap.”

“To help employers improve their veteran hiring, we’ve compiled brief profiles of the techniques used by successful employers,” says Steve Nowlan, Center for America. “These free guides – one for small employers and one for large employers — will save recruiters and managers time and effort by clarifying what works and the mistakes to avoid.”

Download the Small Employer Edition (20 pages) or the Large Employer Edition (41 pages):

The Center for America coordinates the non-profit American Jobs for America’s Heroes military hiring campaign in which 1,600 employers nationally are participating.

Questions? Contact: Steve Nowlan, Center for America, at (201) 513-0379 or SNowlan@CenterForAmerica.org.

Linking Veterans With Jobs and More

sThe Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs will be visiting eight Hoosier communities over the next several weeks, holding Community Outreach events that will offer veterans, active duty members and their dependents opportunities to connect with services and prospective employers.

All events are free. Registration is requested for planning purposes. Each event will be held from 1:00-6:00 p.m. (local time) in the following communities:

  • October 27 – Valparaiso – Porter County Expo Center, 215 E. Division Road, Valparaiso. Register
  • October 28 – South Bend – Ivy Tech Community College, 220 Dean Johnson Blvd, South Bend. Register 
  • October 29 – Ft. Wayne – Ivy Tech Community College, Coliseum Campus, Room 1640, Fort Wayne. Register
  • November 6 – Terre Haute – Ivy Tech Community College Terre Haute Main Campus, The Community Room, 8000 South Education Drive, Terre Haute. Register
  • November 13 – Bloomington – Ivy Tech Community College, 200 Daniels Way, Hoosier Times Student Commons, Bloomington. Register
  • November 20 – Columbus – Ivy Tech Community College, 4475 Central Avenue, Columbus Learning Center, Columbus. Register
  • December 4 – Lafayette – Ivy Tech Community College, Grand Hallway, 3101 S. Creasy Lane, Lafayette. Register
  • December 9 – Kokomo – Indiana Wesleyan, Kokomo Education and Conference Center, 1916 East Markland Avenue, Kokomo. Register

Additional outreach events will be planned for Muncie, New Albany, Bedford and Jasper. Those interested in attending events in these communities can find more information here or call (800) 400-4520.

“Each event will provide information and assistance with VA benefits, claims processing, remission of fees and even what to do if someone wants to enroll or return to college,” said Deanna Pugh, Director of Veterans Employment and Education. “The Indiana State Police, Dish, NiSource, United States Postal Service, Kroger and Lowes will be among the companies and organizations looking to hire employees to work in these communities.

“We will also offer Dale Carnegie sessions to help veterans prepare for interviews. We’re very excited about connecting our resources to our veteran communities and helping link those who have served our country with the many services designed specifically to assist them.”

A new state law that took effect July, 1, 2014, allows for approximately 26,000 post-911 veterans to apply for assistance through the Military Family Relief Fund. This new law eliminates the three-year restriction on access to the fund, which provides grants that may be used for needs such as food, housing, utilities, medical services, transportation and other essential family expenses. The Military Family Relief Fund has a balance of more than $7 million and lifting the cap will ensure those funds are available to support Hoosier veterans and their families.

Since its establishment in 1945, the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA) has remained focused on aiding and assisting “Hoosier” veterans, and qualified family members or survivors, who are eligible for benefits or advantages provided by Indiana and the U.S. government.

Helping Veterans Make the Career Transition

Despite some recent improvement, unemployment rates for veterans — especially those who served post-9/11 — remain much higher than the national average.

Hiring Our Heroes is a nationwide initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. It was developed to help veterans, transitioning service members and military spouses obtain meaningful employment. The program will be hosting a hiring fair at the Amtrak Beech Grove Shops on September 18.

The event is free for both employers and job seekers and will focus on careers in the rail transportation industry. The job fair will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and an employment workshop will be held at 8:30 a.m. Sessions at the workshop will include resume building and writing, as well as interviewing techniques.

The Indiana Chamber’s 24th Annual Awards Dinner in November 2013 featured a salute to the military and veterans theme. In May, the Chamber conducted a Policy Issue Conference Call focused on employment for veterans and military spouses.

New Indiana Fair Employment Poster a Required Change

The Indiana Fair Employment Poster (released by the Indiana Civil Rights Commission) has been changed to add veterans as a protected category and prevent discrimination against them. This stems from House Enrolled Act 1242.

It is against the public policy of the state and a discriminatory practice for an employer to discriminate against a prospective employee on the basis of status as a veteran by:
(1) refusing to employ an applicant for employment on the basis that the applicant is a veteran of the armed forces of the United States; or
(2) refusing to employ an applicant for employment on the basis that the applicant is a member of the Indiana National Guard or member of a reserve component.

We are updating our poster sets to comply with this mandatory change.

You can order our new Indiana state/federal poster sets online, or contact customer service at (800) 824-6885 or customerservice@indianachamber.com.

Better yet, make life much easier for yourself and join our FREE poster subscription service!

Putting Veterans to Work for Your Company

Hiring Our Heroes job fairs, a program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, continue to make a difference in local communities. The mission is to help veterans and spouses earn meaningful private sector employment.

There are two upcoming events in Indiana:

In addition, the Chamber’s May 2 Policy Issue Conference Call will focus on the same topic with national and state guests discussing this important topic and providing practical guidance for employers. All Indiana Chamber members are eligible to participate.