Schools are making it tough for the military

Military recruiters must meet certain recruiting quotas each year in order to keep the 1.4 million active-duty member requirement. This means that there needs to be about 200,000 new recruits annually. If the war on terror in Afghanistan continues for years, the U.S. Defense Department will have to increase the yearly quota.

The military recruiters depend a lot on public high schools around the country. Since there is no draft, the recruiters have to find different ways to reach students and others who may be interested in joining the military.

Unfortunately, the recruiters are facing a large obstacle. Approximately 31 percent of the nation’s public high schools forbid or limit campus visits by the military and refuse to provide the armed forces with student contact information. This, in turn, is making it more difficult for the recruiters to fill their quotas and is forcing them to work harder to find students in places such as malls or bowling alleys.

If Congress passes an amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, these limits could be lifted. The bill, which has gotten the green light in committee, requires public schools to release the names, addresses and phone numbers of all high school seniors unless their parents say no.

A previous statute that was enacted over the summer required schools to give military recruiters the same access as other recruiters, unless the local school board votes to restrict that access.

However, the public schools are still trying to dance around the statute by allowing university and corporation recruiters access while limiting access to military recruiters. There is no difference between military and college recruiting, and, in fact, the military provides a college education for many people. The armed forces also provide jobs that can rival those that corporations offer. To refuse access to military recruiters is ridiculous and makes the school appear as though it does not support the country.

The decision to not release contact information is understandable; the student and his or her parents should give permission first. But there is no way for a student who is interested in the armed forces to gain information in time to join upon completion of high school without the student being allowed to provide the contact information to the recruiters.

One House representative, Johnny Isakson, who has aggressively backed the bill, has spoken to the education secretary about withholding federal funds from public schools that ignore the legislation. This move is unlikely to occur, but to even consider the idea is absurd. The United States is experiencing budget cuts all over the country, with education faring the worst. Before budget cuts, especially in North Carolina, education was receiving the scraps from the table, and now it is experiencing worse neglect. Even thinking of restricting funds to schools is a travesty in these times.

The schools denying military recruiters access need to wake up and smell the coffee. We need to allow the recruiters to do their job in the schools the places from which the most new recruits come. This need is especially strong now as we are fighting Afghanistan and will be so for the duration of the war.

The schools should not be forced to give recruiters the contact information of their students unless the parents allow it or if the students are of legal age to decide for themselves. The schools also should not face federal funding cuts if they refuse to comply.

A common ground must be established, and soon.

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