Air Force will consider local education, career licensure in future basing decisions

Earlier this week, the Air Force announced it will consider a state’s policies for accepting professional, career licenses and a community’s public education system of support for military families as part of its strategic basing process.

On Feb. 24, the Air Force approved criteria for assessing those areas.

“The communities where service members live and work impact readiness, retention and the satisfaction of families,” Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett said in a release. “Future basing decisions made with a consistent framework will ensure optimal conditions for service members and their families.”

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Local education and the ability of military spouses to sustain careers over the course of a military career that often entails multiple moves across state lines are areas that influence service members decisions to remain on active duty, according to the Air Force.

“To address these concerns, the Air Force collaborated with policy professionals and subject matter experts to develop two types of analytic frameworks. The public education framework will be used to evaluate public school districts’ educational aspects and ability to support transferring military children in prekindergarten through 12th grade near Air Force installations,” according to an Air Force release. “The licensure portability framework will be used to assess state laws, governors’ executive orders, state Supreme Court or bar association rules and the ability for an area to accommodate licenses earned from other locations.”

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Mission requirements remain the top priority for where a mission is based, according to the Air Force, but the service will consider these areas of support for military families and the criteria will be formally implemented this spring.

“We know improving schools and changing licensure regulations take time, but efforts to meet the unique needs of military families are vital,” Barrett said in a release. “States that have improved services for military families should be commended and emulated.”

It’s not the first time military officials have said education and licensure could impact basing decisions.

In a February 2018 letter, the service secretaries wrote to the National Governors Association that “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.”

The letter didn’t identify specific states or occupations that are arduous for transitioning students or careers.

Last year, the Montana Board of Public Education approved a second type of Class 5 provisional licences, that would allow teachers who hold current certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in an area approved for endorsement in Montana, and apply for endorsement in the same area.

The change was initiated by then GFPS Superintendent Tammy Lacey, after the Malmstrom Air Force Base commander raised the issue of teacher licensure for military spouses.

The Class 5A provisional license will be issued to those individuals seeking their initial Montana educator license that meet all licensure requirements except for successful completion of the Montana required Praxis test. This license is valid for one year and is non-renewable, according to the proposed rule change in the board packet.

The reasoning for the change, according to the board packet, is that the Praxis is a quality assurance measure, but completing the test prior to licensure can be difficult for teachers while relocating.

Allowing for a Praxis exemption for the first year would recognize that teachers who have National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification are required to meet high standards including completion of three years of teaching and have a valid teaching license.

That will give them the option to apply for jobs in Montana while completing the full licensure process, GFPS officials told The Electric last year, but they still have to compete for the teaching jobs in Montana.

The Montana Legislature also passed a bill last year, that was signed into law by Gov. Steve Bullock, amending language in the rules regarding professional licensure for anyone moving into Montana with a license from another state.

The language changes “may” to “shall issue a license to practice without examination to a person licensed in another state if the board determines that:

  • the other state’s license standards at the time of application to this state are substantially equivalent to or greater than the standards in this state; and
  • there is no reason to deny the license under the laws of this state governing the profession or occupation.

The law still requires verification of the license and that the person isn’t facing pending charges or final disciplinary action for unprofessional conduct or impairment. The law doesn’t prevent a professional licensing board from entering into a reciprocity agreement with other states but the agreement may not permit out-of-state licensees to obtain a license by reciprocity within Montana if the applicant hasn’t met the standards that are substantially equivalent or greater than the standards required in Montana.

Those licensing requirements are different by industry boards and some already have various reciprocityendorsement or compact agreements that allow someone licensed in another state to work here or vice versa.

In the fall of 2018, local city and county officials met with state lawmakers and said reciprocity for licensure was a priority since the Department of Defense had indicated it will be a factor in future basing decisions.

Licensing for military spouses was again discussed at a joint city-county meeting with legislators in March 2019.