Military kids' schools, spouse ratings, lower or flat at JBLM

2021 assessment of states’ details levels of support for military families

By Claire Nunn on September 8, 2021

WASHINGTON (AFNS & Ranger Staff) --

The Department of the Air Force released its 2021 assessment that details how states provide support military families. At Joint Base Lewis-McChord ratings in 2021 compared to 2019 were mostly down or unchanged when compared to 157 Air Force and joint base installations across the United States.

The annual evaluation measured ease of licensure portability across state lines and support for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade public education surrounding installations. The assessment used the colors green, yellow and red (highest to lowest) to graphically display the results using percentiles, divided into thirds, to “provide information about a location’s relative position compared to all other Department of the Air Force installations assessed,” the report read.


Public education at JBLM dropped from the middle percentile (yellow) in 2019 to the lowest (red) in 2021.

The education assessment included schools within the Military Housing Area (MHA. The Department of Defense defines the MHA as a geographic area in which service members look for community housing.

Most of the local analysis suggested a drop in ratings.

“JBLM’s overall education rating shifted from yellow to red as overall academic performance shifted from green (highest percentile) to yellow due to (the) student learning rate shifting from green to yellow,” the report noted. “Additionally, pre-kindergarten availability shifted from yellow to red, but suspension rate(s) improved from yellow to green.”

The report indicated that local officials need to focus mostly on the chronic absenteeism rate, student to teacher and student to nurse ratios.

As for military spouse licensure, the State of Washington ranked average.

“The state received an overall yellow rating for licensure portability indicating the State statutes
(primarily RCWA 18.340.020) contain barriers to licensure and certification portability for military spouses,” the report indicated. “This assessment was awarded for joining an interstate compact for Physical Therapy and establishing procedures to expedite the issuance of licenses and certificates. Along with awarding permanent licensure with no supervisory requirements for the Law profession.”

Law and physical therapy both went from red or yellow in 2019 to green in 2021.

Issues to still resolve include barriers for accounting, cosmetology, engineering, EMS, nursing, psychology, and teaching which include “substantial equivalency” requirements. These all remained unchanged at yellow compared to 2019.

“This allows acceptance of another state’s license if the requirements for obtaining the license are sufficiently similar to their own State’s requirements and precludes acceptance if the requirements are not similar,” according to the report. “Other Occupations also have barriers as current statute does not exclude any other occupations from licensure portability barriers.”

Wrapping it up, the report indicated, “Despite the creation of a military spouse liaison, there were no changes to the State’s statute and no change from the 2019 assessment.”

In the Q&A of the report, officials stated “to date, COVID has not had any impact on the actual data used in our analysis. As part of
the criteria assessment process, we will continue to evaluate any impacts that COVID may have on specific criteria.”

Overall, since the first assessment released in 2020, the Department of the Air Force, states and installation communities have diligently worked toward the removal of barriers to military family readiness, which faces significant challenges due to frequent relocation.

As a result, more than 60 pieces of state legislation targeting military spouse licensure have increased access to resources for military spouses, removed barriers, accelerated process timelines and reduced costs. Additionally, states are increasingly working together to create and expand interstate compacts and reciprocity initiatives that allow military spouses the ability to use licenses obtained in different states than which they live due to military-driven relocation.

Similarly, there are growing discussions between schools districts, local education agencies, local governments and the Department of the Air Force, focused on how communities can understand the distinct needs of military-connected students in their schools, and provide the best support and broadest opportunities possible. Many of these discussions turned into action resulting in installations seeing improvement in overall education scores.

The Department of the Air Force collaborated with national-level policy professionals and subject matter experts to develop quantitative criteria and analytic frameworks to assess states’ support of military families annually.

The information collected is also one of several factors considered as part of the Department of the Air Force strategic basing process.