Corrected Version: Governor LePage and First Lady ask Legislature to reverse rejection by Education Committee of military service exploration for Maine students

June 3, 2013

Contact: Adrienne Bennett, Press Secretary for Governor Paul R. LePage, (207) 287-2531
Samantha Warren, Maine DOE Director of Communications, (207) 624-6747

AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage and First Lady Ann M. LePage are calling on the Maine Legislature to vote not as divided Republicans and Democrats but as united Americans on two bills that ensure the state’s students have opportunity to explore military service.

They are also asking those who support all Maine students having access to learning more about voluntary service in the armed forces to call their legislators and encourage them to support the two Governor’s bills, which come to the full Legislature with divided reports after being rejected on essentially party line votes in the Democrat-controlled Education Committee last month.

A vote in the Maine House has not yet been scheduled but could happen as early as today.

“Military service is our nation’s highest calling and nothing should stand in the way of Maine’s students who wish to pursue that brave and patriotic path,” said the LePage's, who have made advocacy for Maine’s military members of past and present and their families a hallmark of their tenure in the Blaine House. “Maine students should have the same opportunity to talk to recruiters from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard as they do those from Colby, Bates and Bowdoin. We may have our political differences here in Augusta, but for the good of Maine’s young adults and our nation, let’s put them aside and join together to support these bills.”

LD 1502, An Act To Expand Student Access to Certain Career Information and Opportunities, would require school boards to adopt policies allowing the administration of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, known as ASVAB, to those who are interested.

The test helps students understand their strengths and which jobs may be best for them, but some public high schools in Maine prohibit its administration on school grounds.

The Education Committee rejected the bill 7-6 after little discussion, with Hiram Representative Helen Rankin the lone Democrat to join the committee’s minority Republicans in supporting the Governor’s bill.

LD 1503, An Act To Ensure Student Access to Postsecondary Military Options, would require school districts to adopt policies allowing uniformed military recruiters the same access and opportunity to meet with students enjoyed by other postsecondary and career recruiters.

The No Child Left Behind Act already requires schools receiving federal funds to allow access to military recruiters, but does not specify if they can wear military uniforms, an exclusion some Maine schools have established on their own without explanation.

That bill was defeated 7-6 by the committee’s Democrats though Representative Matthea Daughtry of Brunswick did join her Republican colleagues to support the equal access measure.

“The ASVAB test has great value beyond helping students consider their potential future in the military,” Governor LePage added. “It provides students and advisors a critical aptitude testing tool that helps steer students on a productive life path regardless of the profession they choose. Furthermore, Maine schools should be encouraging our nation’s uniformed heroes coming into schools, not discriminating against them.”

The two bills were prompted by the concerns military representatives brought to Governor LePage and the Department of Education. Because military representatives often abstain from testifying before legislative committees, Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen spoke on their behalf, expressing support from the Department and the LePage Administration.

“It is our position that students should have every opportunity to explore a career in the armed forces,” the Commissioner said. “By prohibiting uniformed recruiters or the ASVAB test, we are sending students a message that military service is something to which they should not aspire. These bills do not require students to enlist, they simply allow students to explore all of their post-secondary options, whether that be college, career or service to their community and country.”