Kudos to Ohio Gov. John Kasich for his executive order this month that seeks to fairly compensate the well-honed skill sets of the state’s 900,000 military veterans with college and vocational-education credits.
Specifically, Kasich’s order directs all state-run boards, commissions and departments issuing occupational licenses to take into account a veteran’s military education, skills training and service time when determining equivalency for licensing requirements. In addition, the chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents and university presidents must determine how to award more college credit tied to military service and do so when appropriate.
The order represents another tangible and deserved recognition of the state’s gratitude for the service and sacrifice of its living veterans from World War II through the War on Terror. It also recognizes the need to work aggressively to lower the state’s woefully high unemployment rate for veterans. For example, of the state’s 75,000 veterans returning from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the jobless rate is 12.8 percent, compared with the state’s overall unemployment rate of only 7 percent.
THE NEXT STEP
As such, the order merits strict adherence from public universities and job-training institutions across Ohio. It also merits reinforcement and expansion, qualities it can attain in legislation co-sponsored by the Mahoning Valley’s two state senators, Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd, and Capri Cafaro of Liberty, D-32nd.
That legislation is Senate Bill 13, the Veterans Opportunity Act, whose primary sponsor is Sen. Lou Gentile, viewed by some as the leading candidate in 2014 to challenge U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson in the Valley’s 6th Congressional District. Gentile calls the governor’s executive order a good first step, but his bill would codify the Kasich order into permanent law in the Ohio Revised Code and would expand and strengthen its impact.
Among its laudable provisions, SB 13 would:
Develop a model for training counselors and academic advisers to ensure needs of veterans are being met.
Train at least one faculty member at each two-year or four-year college or university as liaisons and contacts for student veterans.
Provide these faculty members with sensitivity and awareness on issues facing veterans including: military and training culture, traumatic brain injury, post- traumatic stress disorder and others.
Establish collaborative relationships between student veterans and alumni to help link veterans with prospective employers.
FAST ACTION NEEDED
Fortunately, momentum is on the side of Gentile’s bill. Just last week, veterans and representatives of each branch of the military rallied and lobbied at the Statehouse to move SB 13 onto the fast track for passage. At that event, State Rep. Theresa Fedor of Toledo told supporters, “I hope all of you will go back to your communities and organize events locally as well. You are all natural leaders coming from our military and can all lead the charge to make it easier for our veterans to receive the employment or college credit they deserve.”
Fedor is correct. Gentile’s legislation rightly acknowledges that the assets military veterans gained while serving overseas can be applied quickly to the private sector at home. It also affirms the state’s gratitude for the sacrifice veterans made for their state and nation. As such, the Senate’s Public Safety, Local Government and Veteran Affairs Committee should advance the bill quickly to the full Senate for approval toward complete General Assembly passage no later than this fall.