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.

Playing the Federal Numbers Game

government employeeQuestion: Exactly how many people work for the federal government? Answer: It depends.

A new study titled “The True Size of Government” puts the number at somewhere between seven and nine million. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 2 million employees
  • 3.7 million contractors
  • 1.6 million grant employees
  • 1.3 million active duty military
  • 500,000 Postal Service

Military members are not always included in such calculations. Same with the Postal Service, which does not receive congressional appropriations. The grantee and contract numbers are estimates from the Bureau of Economic Analysis

Study author Paul C. Light of New York University says an important takeaway is “the study reminds us that the nation depends on a very large blended workforce that includes many more contract and grant employees than federal civil servants. It is easy to say the civil service is too big, but it is only part of the workforce needed to faithfully execute the laws.

“The question is not whether we have too many government employees, but do we have the right blend to deliver the mission at the best price, value and performance. … This means we should be counting all the heads when we get into debates about cutting performances.”

That blended workforce actually dropped from 11.3 million to 9.1 million between 2010 and 2015, according to a separate study published by the Volcker Alliance.

Light doesn’t question the value of contract and grant workers. He does note that while cost savings are often cited for their increasing use, that is not always the case when “indirect costs such as supplies, equipment, materials and other costs of doing business enter the equation. Add overhead to the total and contract employees can cost twice as much as federal employees.”

Chamber Honored for Support of National Guard

Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar holds the Above and Beyond Award, presented to the Chamber for its support of our employee Cory Ahlersmeyer. Cory’s annual two-week deployments allow him to train for his service in the National Guard.

We’re proud to have received the Above and Beyond Award from the U.S. Military’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program for our support and flexibility with our staffer Cory Ahlersmeyer. We’re grateful for his service to the country and proud to call him a colleague! The award reads: “Presented on behalf of the men and women of the National Guard and Reserve Forces for outstanding service and continuing support to the National Defense.”

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 [email protected].

Another Successful Annual Dinner in the Books

Over 1,500 folks participated in last night's Annual Awards Dinner, and the central theme was to honor Indiana's contribution to the U.S. military. It was an enjoyable, yet humbling evening. I'd like to thank my coworkers for putting on another memorable event. The keynote from Gen. Stan McChrystal was enlightening, and here is some information about the award winners:

Business Leader of the Year: Steve Ferguson, chairman of Cook Group, Inc., Bloomington – “Steve Ferguson is a class act and has a thoughtful and calming way about him. He is a perpetual optimist and has a good way of getting people to focus on the right things, the task at hand and getting it done,” offers Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “I think we all should aspire to be like Steve in terms of his approach to business and in particular his approach to interpersonal interactions.”

An attorney by trade, Ferguson was a Cook Group consultant for more than two decades before finally being persuaded to make the partnership official in the early 1990s. He was company founder Bill Cook’s confidante and trusted advisor (Cook passed away in 2011).

Today, the Cook Group (which also includes enterprises in the retail, real estate and travel/transportation industries) employs 11,000, has annual sales of approximately $2 billion and generates more than a million medical device products each day.

The importance of what the core company does hits home daily, Ferguson says.

 “We see those stories – a child who is surviving, a parent who lives to see his grandchildren. I would think everybody in the company, whether they are on the floor manufacturing or in leadership, realizes that every device is going to affect somebody’s life.”

Another Cook legacy that Ferguson has been heavily involved with is building restoration. Ferguson led the affiliate responsible for these projects, which began locally in Bloomington in the 1970s. The crowning jewel would come in 2007 with the return to glory of the West Baden Hotel and creation of the French Lick Resort.

“It’s an impact project. There’s a lot of involvement in the bricks and mortar, and I think we’ve done a very nice job there. But it’s much more than that. To bring it back to life and to have people visit there and enjoy it, which was one of the things Bill always wanted.”

Ferguson spends three workdays at Cook headquarters in Bloomington and two at the French Lick Resort. He listens to those running the day-day-day operations and imparts his wisdom without telling them what to do. It’s all done with a positive attitude that he finds so important.

“I think you need to be around positive people and you need to be a positive person yourself. If someone asks how I am, I always say ‘I couldn’t be better.’ I get up every day feeling like that,” shares the 72-year-old.                                                           

A welcome activity for Ferguson is volunteering and community involvement, which he believes is something everybody should embrace. One such effort that remains near and dear to his heart is the 800 basketball games he coached. Other highlights: He served 12 years on the IU Board of Trustees and was a member of the state’s Higher Education Commission and Indiana’s Education Roundtable.

Government Leader of the Year: former U.S Sen. Richard Lugar – “Few government leaders have made as wide and positive an impact as Richard Lugar has for his home state and nation,” offers Brinegar. “In fact, ‘Government Leader of a Lifetime’ might well be a more appropriate designation.” Lugar was also the inaugural Government Leader of the Year in 1990.

After two terms as Indianapolis mayor, Lugar represented Indiana for 36 years in the U.S. Senate.

During his time in the Senate, Lugar was known for his bipartisanship and thoughtful approach to various complex issues – including the dismantling of weapons of mass destruction. As a testament to these traits and his many accomplishments, Lugar is one of the recipients of this year’s Presidential Medal of Freedom – the nation’s highest civilian honor presented to those who have made especially meritorious contributions to U.S. security or national interests.

The 81-year-old Lugar hasn’t slowed down after leaving Congress. As president of the Lugar Center in Washington D.C., he continues his work on many of the same passions that dominated his career, including energy and national security issues. Recent diplomacy efforts included trips to South Korea, Azerbaijan and Montenegro.

“(Energy) is still politically charged; the battle over the Keystone XL pipeline seems to go on and on and on. Many people take the point of view that climate change requires that all fossil fuels be curtailed. I’m optimistic – balance of payments are down, production in the United States is up and our foreign policy has changed because of much less dependence upon the Middle East and other areas that are hostile to us,” Lugar explains.

Regarding money matters, he has confidence Americans can find solutions to the many challenges.

“My hope is that there is going to be more optimism. We are in a degree of economic recovery, even if not as strong as all of us wish it was, that compared to other countries … we are still the strongest and are recognized that way. The dollar is still the best currency; this is where the Chinese want to put their reserves,” he emphasizes.

Lugar has also expanded his relationship with the University of Indianapolis to form the Lugar Academy, which provides students with unique learning experiences here and in Washington. Lugar also teaches university students in Indiana and at Georgetown University.

When he’s not helping to prepare the next generation of business and civic leaders, you might find Lugar on the 604-acre Marion County family farm that he still manages today, planting and pruning trees with his son, Bob. Family is especially important to Lugar; he met longtime wife, Charlene, when the two served as co-presidents of the Denison University student body.

“We have continued to be supportive of each other through all the public life ups and downs and the raising of four wonderful sons, who I have enormous pride in and have great achievements of their own. These have been critical factors in my ability to serve. My family has wanted to be teammates in this and I’ve included them,” he adds.

Community of the Year: Bedford – “A community that adapts to changing industries and citizen needs is one that will succeed,” states Brinegar. “To see Bedford thrive and capitalize on partnerships at all levels to support its businesses and residents is heartening. The community sets a wonderful example.”

Bedford’s comprehensive plan (which hadn’t been updated in 25 years) centers on strategic investment and downtown revitalization. The city honed in on expanding education and workforce development efforts; diversifying and continuing to support growing industries, including health care and defense manufacturing; plus beautifying buildings and offering affordable housing for seniors.

Strengthened partnerships among the city, county and private sector paved the way for the community to focus on the high unemployment rate that was burdening the small city of 14,000 in south central Indiana.

Bedford's progress was recognized by the state earlier this year, as it was chosen as a Stellar Community. Only two Indiana communities are designated as such each year. The award brings $19 million in state, local and private funds to Bedford for planned improvements.

The awards dinner followed the Indiana Chamber’s fall board of directors and annual membership meetings. Indiana Chamber Volunteers of the Year were announced during a lunch ceremony: Ron Christian (Vectren, Evansville); Mike Campbell (recently retired from Neace Lukens, Indianapolis); and Melissa Proffitt Reese (Ice Miller, Indianapolis).

Patty Prosser, managing partner of Career Consultants – Oi Partners, of Indianapolis, was elected the Indiana Chamber’s 2014 chair of the board of directors.

RECENT INDIANA CHAMBER ANNUAL AWARD WINNERS:

Business Leader of the Year
Scott Dorsey – 2012
Jean Wojtowicz – 2011
Mike Wells – 2010
John Swisher – 2009
Tony George – 2008

Community of the Year
Indianapolis – 2012
Kokomo – 2011
Terre Haute – 2010
Valparaiso – 2009
Noblesville – 2008

Government Leader of the Year
Sen. Carlin Yoder and Rep. Jerry Torr – 2012
Speaker of the House Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long – 2011
Tony Bennett, state superintendent of public instruction – 2010
Stan Jones, former state commissioner for higher education – 2009
Former Gov. Joe Kernan and Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court Randall Shepard – 2008

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Work with the Military? We Want to Know

We'll celebrate the contribution of Indiana businesses to the U.S. military at our 24th Annual Awards Dinner on Nov. 12.

If your company works with the military, we want to know so we can possibly honor you at the event. Please let us know via www.indianachamber.com/military. Hopefully we'll see you at the dinner! It should be an enjoyable and moving fall evening in Indianapolis.

Program Matches Guard Members With Job Openings

There are various efforts taking place to connect military veterans — and the valuable skills they possess — with employers who are having difficulty finding the workers they need. One of those programs is focused on the National Guard, assisting active members, veterans and spouses.

American Jobs for America's Heroes (AJAH) has a mission of encouraging employers across the country to provide job postings. These will allow National Guard employment counselors to match openings with qualified candidates.

Of nearly 360,000 National Guard members (in all 50 states and four U.S. territories), about 20% are unemployed. Only one in four National Guard applicants are accepted. They train continuously in a variety of programs — demonstrating a readiness for learning, strong teamwork and reliability, and an understanding of how to perform in a disciplined organization.

There are no costs for employers or job seekers. Companies can receive assistance at no cost in screening candidates and understanding how military training experience relates to job requirements.

The web site has additional information and registration details. The Indiana Chamber is among many associations and companies (Phillips 66 is the lead national corporate sponsor) supporting this initiative.

Kudos to Trio of Hoosier Companies for Military Support

Three Indiana organizations are among 133 semifinalists for the prestigious Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. The award is the highest honor given by the government to employers for providing exceptional support to their Guard and Reserve employees. There were more than 3,200 nominees nationally.

The Indiana employers named semifinalists are Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana, Inc., Princeton; U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, Indianapolis; and Gary Jet Center, Gary. Freedom Award nominations come directly from Guard and Reserve members, or family members acting on their behalf. The Freedom Award provides service members with an opportunity to recognize employers for going above and beyond what is required by law. 

Employers chosen as semifinalists support their Guard and Reserve employees through a variety of formal and informal initiatives, including developing internal military support networks, providing full benefits to employees fulfilling their military obligations, caring for the families of deployed employees, and granting additional leave to Guard and Reserve employees preparing to leave for or return from deployments.
 
ESGR will announce the 2012 Freedom Award finalists next month after a review board comprised of military and civilian leaders selects the 30 most supportive employers from among the 133 semifinalists. The 15 award recipients will be announced early this summer and honored in Washington, D.C. at the 17th annual Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award Ceremony on September 20, 2012.  

Best of the Best: Do It Best Corp. Honored by Dept. of Defense

We’re proud to relay that Do It Best Corp. — a Fort Wayne-based fully integrated hardware company — has been an Indiana Chamber member for over 50 years. So it’s great to see this business honored yet again by the United States military for its contribution to the nation’s greater good.

For the second time in less than six months, the United States Department of Defense has presented Do it Best Corp. with the Patriot Award for the co-op’s ongoing level of dedication and support for active-duty employees.

This time, it was Do it Best Corp. Vice President of Retail Logistics John Snider accepting the award from the Indiana Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), an agency of the Department of Defense, in recognition of his continued and outward support of his active-duty team members.

“John Snider and everyone at Do it Best Corp. have been exceptionally supportive, flexible and accommodating with my responsibilities and demands as an officer in the Navy Reserve,” explained Brian Reed, a Do it Best Corp. employee and lieutenant commander in the United States Navy Reserve. “His leadership and support have clearly demonstrated patriotic support for my service, as well as other veterans and active-duty employees here at Do it Best Corp.”

In nominating Snider and the co-op, Reed mentioned several noteworthy aspects of the active-duty-employee support program, including official recognition of Reservists for service and accomplishments, ongoing and consistent communication with families during times of service, and the provision of military leave when employees are called to duty.

“We understand the unique pressures and challenges our working soldiers face, so we try to ensure they get the support, flexibility and recognition we believe they deserve,” Snider said. “As with all of our employees, our goal is to provide an ideal and supportive place to work.”

In November 2011, another Do it Best Corp. leader received a Patriot Award from ESGR. That award was presented to Karla Wygant, the co-op’s business technical support manager, after being nominated by a member of her team, U.S. Army Reservist James Elliott.

Pictured: Vice President of Retail Logistics John Snider accepting the award along with Brian Reed, a Do it Best Corp. employee and lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

Veterans Day Facts and Figures

Chances are there is a military veteran in your family or you know one. Today, as I was reflecting on the tremendous sacrifices these men and women have made for all of us, I decided to learn more about the holiday itself, which was first called Armistice Day.

I came across a Washington Post article that offers some background and traditions as well as some powerful numbers on veterans, courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau:

  • In 1954, the holiday became known as Veterans Day when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation making it so in order to honor veterans of all U.S. wars.

  • In 1921, the United States laid to rest the remains of a World War I American soldier — his name “known but to God” – in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on a hillside overlooking Washington, D.C. It became known as the “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” and was meant to symbolize reverence for the American veteran. Today it is known as the “Tomb of the Unknowns.”

  • At the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington Cemetery, at 11 a.m. each Nov. 11, a color guard composed of members of each of the military branches renders honors to America’s war dead. The U.S. president or a representative places a wreath at the tomb and a bugler sounds taps.

Veterans
21.8 million – The number of military veterans in the United States in 2010.
1.6 million –The number of female veterans in 2010.
2.4 million – The number of black veterans in 2010.
9 million – The number of veterans 65 and older in 2010. At the other end of the age spectrum, 1.7 million were younger than 35.

When They Served
7.6 million – Number of Vietnam-era veterans in 2010. Thirty-five percent of all living veterans served during this time (1964-1975). In addition, 4.8 million served during the Gulf War (representing service from Aug. 2, 1990, to present); 2.1 million in World War II (1941-1945); 2.6 million in the Korean War (1950-1953); and 5.5 million in peacetime only.

49,500 – Number of living veterans in 2010 who served during the Vietnam era and both Gulf War eras and no other period. Other living veterans in 2010 who served during three wars:

  • 54,000 served during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam era.

 

Living veterans in 2010 who served during two wars and no other period:

  • 837,000 served during both Gulf War eras.

  • 211,000 served during both the Korean War and the Vietnam era.

  • 147,000 served during both World War II and the Korean War.

  •