Service secretaries: Quality of schools, reciprocity of licenses should be considered in basing decisions

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A letter signed by all three military service secretaries outlining ways state leadership can better support service members was sent to the National Governors Association Feb. 23, 2018.

The letter encouraged state leadership to look at the quality of schools near bases and if reciprocity of professional licenses is available for military families.

A copy of the full letter, signed by Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer, and Secretary of the Air Force Heather A. Wilson can be found here.


Dear Governors Sandoval, Bullock, and members of the National Governors Association,

Thank you for your support of our men and women in the military. We are often asked what communities can do to support those who serve. While focus on the mission is always our priority, the factors military families cite most frequently as drawbacks to military service include military dependent's difficulty assimilating into local school systems following a duty station transfer, the quality of schools available for their children, and the ability of spouses to obtain jobs and sustain careers. With that in mind, we will encourage leadership to consider the quality of schools near bases and whether reciprocity of professional licenses is available for military families when evaluating future basing or mission alternatives.

Military families relocate frequently. The services endeavor to schedule transfers to minimize impact on the academic year, but this is not always possible. As a result, incoming students face difficulties transferring credits between school systems, adjusting to varied curriculum, and joining sports teams or clubs after the start of the school year. Exclusion from extra-curricular activities is particularly challenging for our military children, as they are critical to social development and self-esteem. Some school systems recognize this and accommodate military families during transfers. These schools should be commended and emulated.

Facilitating military spouses in continuing their work in a new place of residence without delays or extra expense is also important. Spouses in professionally licensed fields such as medical, legal, engineering, education, accounting, or the cosmetic arts face challenges due to delays or cost of transferring licenses to a new state or jurisdiction. Eliminating or mitigating these barriers will improve quality of life for our military families, and ease the stress of transferring duty stations with consideration for long-term career implications.

We realize improving schools and changing laws or regulations regarding professional licensure will take time. Over the long term, however, leaders who want to make a difference for the military and our missions will make the most impact if we focus on what matters. Reciprocity on licensure and the quality of education matter.

Thank you for your help and attention. We look forward to continuing to work with you and thank you again for your support of our men and women in the military.