For Immediate Release
AUGUSTA - The House on Tuesday took up two bills concerning military recruiters in public schools. The first, LD 1502, requires that public high schools allow recruiters to administer the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test to students who elect to take it. Under the bill, recruiters, not school staff, would take the time to administer the test, which would remain voluntary for the students.
That bill was rejected mostly along party lines, 74-68. Majority Democrats on the Education Committee had previously recommended, 8-5, along strict party lines, that it ought not to pass. Republican lawmakers, many of them veterans, rose to speak in favor of the bill, saying that not only is the ASVAB a valuable vocational aptitude tool for civilian as well as military jobs, but opposition to allowing recruiters to give the test at schools smacked of the anti-military sentiment that marked the Vietnam era.
The second bill, LD 1503, saw even more spirited debate. The bill carried the same, party line, 8-5 ought not to pass report out of the Education Committee, and reads that military recruiters must be given the same access to public schools as other career recruiters and that they must be allowed to wear their uniforms into schools.
"I found it repulsive that there was opposition to these bills," said Rep. Peter Doak (R-Columbia Falls), who served in Vietnam as a Green Beret. "We bury these guys in their uniforms but they're not allowed to wear them to schools?"
Some Democrats said that LD 1503 is a solution in search of a problem, and expressed doubt that any schools are restricting recruiters' access. However, the bill comes as a result of military recruiters in Maine approaching Governor LePage, citing instances of seven schools requiring they wear civilian clothes, limiting school visits to annual restocking of brochure racks with no student interaction, or requiring advance signup and parental consent in order to speak to a recruiter.
Both bills were Governor's Bills sponsored by House Republican Leader Ken Fredette of Newport. According to the Governor's Office, the recruiters declined to name specific schools publicly because the recruiters want to maintain a good relationship with the schools.
"We are at war right now; men and women are dying," said Rep. Corey Wilson (R-Augusta), who served in the second Iraqi conflict as a Marine. "I find it disgusting that some schools are making service members take off their uniforms before coming to talk to students."
Rep. Joyce Maker (R-Calais) remarked that she was reminded of the days when troops were spat upon when returning from war. "Things have changed," said Maker. "Now, we greet them at Bangor Airport, but we're still not letting them into our schools to talk to our kids? That is wrong."
Rep. Raymond Wallace (R-Dexter) added that things can change again, and we must ensure that we continue to show the military the respect it deserves. "We fought for you!" he told his House colleagues in an emotional floor speech.
After roughly an hour of debate on LD 1503, the House rejected the majority ought not to pass report, 98-44, and accepted the minority ought to pass as amended report, 115-28. The bills now go to the Senate.
Maine House Republicans
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