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Edelblut joins call for Department of Defense to share data on graduates who enlist in military

FILE - National Guard members take a staircase toward the U.S. Capitol building before a rehearsal for President-elect Joe Biden's Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Jan. 18, 2021. Soldiers are leaving the Army National Guard at a faster rate than they are enlisting, fueling concerns that in the coming years units around the country may not meet military requirements for overseas and other deployments. Officials say the number of soldiers retiring or leaving the Guard each month in the past year has exceeded those coming in, for a total annual loss of about 7,500 service members. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
Patrick Semansky
National Guard members take a staircase toward the U.S. Capitol building before a rehearsal for President-elect Joe Biden's Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Jan. 18, 2021.

This story was originally produced by the New Hampshire Bulletin, an independent local newsroom that allows NHPR and other outlets to republish its reporting.

Citing a shortfall in new recruits, New Hampshire’s top education official has joined with 30 other states and territories to ask the U.S. Department of Defense to share data on high school graduates who enlist in the military.

In a letter sent Nov. 13, Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut and his counterparts in the other states argued that state education leaders should know more about how their former students have fared in the military. Having that information would help school officials get a clearer picture of how to help students who are interested in military service, they wrote.

“As state education leaders, we are working to ensure that all high school graduates are ready for college and career success, and we would like to have the option to include military service as part of the mix,” the commissioners wrote.

“However, we have been unable to obtain accurate information on which students are serving, in what capacity, and for how long. Without easily accessible, accurate information, states have had to rely on less reliable self-reported data or have backed away entirely from including military service in the way they evaluate school and student success.”

The state education officials are pushing the Department of Defense to break down enlistment data for each state and allow the states to incorporate it into their existing systems. They are requesting the department to form a working group to determine the best way to pass on that information without violating student data privacy laws.

In their letter, the education officials said they were concerned that the U.S. military has fallen short of its enlistment goals. The Army, Air Force, and Navy are collectively 25,000 recruits short this year, though the Marine Corps is meeting its goals, the New York Times reported in October.

The officials wrote that even high school students interested in serving “are often unfit for service due to academic or physical fitness gaps.”

“Allowing state education agencies to connect their data with military enlistment information would open the door for states to consider military service as a successful post-high school outcome,” the letter concluded. “This could lead to an increased number of the 3.7 million high school graduates each year considering the military as a viable career option.”

In signing the letter, Edelblut joined education officials in Alabama, American Samoa, Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, the Northern Mariana Islands, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming. Kansas Commissioner of Education Randall Watson spearheaded the letter.

A spokesperson for the Department of Defense did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

New Hampshire Bulletin is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. New Hampshire Bulletin maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Dana Wormald for questions: Follow New Hampshire Bulletin on Facebook and Twitter.

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