Wednesday, June 3, 2009

1 in 4 Not Eligible to Serve

A quartet of former 28th Infantry Division Army National Guard commanders say a new report from the Pentagon shows 75% of Americans age 17 to 24 are unable to enlist because they lack a high school diploma, have a criminal background, or are physically or mentally unfit. Major Generals Wesley Craig, Dan O'Neill, and Joe Perugino made the announcement today in Harrisburg. The retired generals are members of a new organization called Mission: Readiness, which supports policies to help young people get a good start in life so they are prepared for the workforce and for military service, if they choose that path. State Senator John Pippy of Moon joined them. Pippy is a West Point graduate and a Major in the army reserves. He says this is not just an armed services issue. He says the same problems that keep people out of the military hinder their ability to be productive members of society. Criminal histories and a lack of a diploma make it hard for many to find good jobs. In Pennsylvania, 1 in 5 high school students fails to finish high school on time or drop out entirely. Pippy says more money for early childhood education will increase the number of young Americans who graduate and qualify to serve. He says he knows the state budget is tight and there is no new money to be had. That is why he suggests shifting $40-million from basic education spending to pre-K programs. The generals say a recent study found that at-risk children who attended pre-K programs were 44% more likely to complete high school than the children who did not attend. By age 27, the at-risk children who did not benefit from the early learning were five times more likely to be chronic offenders, with five or more arrests. They say 65% of Pennsylvania's at-risk children do not have access to early childhood education due to inadequate funding. Pippy says he is also looking at the possibilities that exist beyond military service. He says the findings of the study means one in four Pennsylvania children will not have access to the GI Bill. He says money for college helped “the greatest generation” improve their lives and the country following World War II and many low income Pennsylvanians need to have the same opportunity.

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