Ohio needs to help military spouses get back to workDec 06, 2019
This opinion piece appeared in The Columbus Dispatch.
I am blessed to be living my dream — raising two children alongside the love of my life, Air Force Lt. Monte McKinnon, while completing my master’s degree in special education.
Unfortunately, one part of my dream has been put on hold due to Ohio’s occupational licensing laws. After serving as a special-education teacher for the past year on a one-year temporary license, I had to resign my position because Ohio does not recognize my teaching license from Washington state. While I can serve as a substitute teacher, I make more money working as a caregiver for children with disabilities out of my home. Although I enjoy serving in this way, what I want to do and what I am passionate about is teaching.
Military families like mine stationed in Ohio enjoy the privilege of serving this great nation. But that privilege comes with sacrifice. As military spouses, we move where the armed forces tells us, and are often asked to put our personal hopes, dreams and careers on hold as our husbands or wives stand their posts for the United States.
When my husband was transferred to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base 2½ years ago, we had assumed that I would be able to continue my dream of working with at-risk students, just as I had in Washington, where I wrote a special-needs education curriculum for the ROAR program at Washington State University. I was surprised to discover that my credentials would allow me to teach in Washington but not here in Ohio.
Regrettably, Ohio makes it very difficult for military spouses to continue working in some of their chosen fields and licensed professions. Even though I am a licensed educator in Washington with years of experience, Ohio will not recognize my license. To earn an Ohio certificate would require taking several college courses and sitting for a number of exams, in addition to background checks and fees. What Ohio asks is too much for a military spouse who will only be stationed here for a short time.
I was allowed to teach the past school year on a one-year temporary license that expired back in June. So now, I have had to give up serving as a special-education teacher in the public schools.
My situation is not unique. Ohio’s occupational licensing requirements — and its lack of reciprocity for licenses earned in other states — are barriers to entering the workforce for thousands of military spouses in Ohio. Those rules and requirements need to change.
Thankfully many people agree. Lawmakers have sponsored legislation that would lift these restrictions. The Buckeye Institute, a Columbus-based think tank, has been working on this issue since 2016. Further, members in both chambers of the Ohio legislature seem ready to agree that Ohio needs to act.
In votes held over the spring and summer, the General Assembly unanimously passed common-sense legislation that will help military families like mine continue to serve, while military spouses continue pursuing their dreams.
Unfortunately, differing versions adopted by the House and Senate are not yet Ohio law, pending resolution in a conference committee. But under the proposed provisions, military spouses transferred to Ohio will be granted the same professional licenses that they hold in another state, provided that the licensing requirements in that state are similar to or more stringent than those in Ohio.
Military spouses with out-of-state licenses that are not similar to Ohio’s standards could still obtain a temporary license to continue working while they pursue Ohio certification.
That reasonable solution in Senate Bill 7 needs Columbus’ prompt attention to help military spouses get back to work in doing what they love best.
Ohio should no longer ask its military families to make yet another sacrifice in service to the country. The Air Force asks its men and women in uniform to “Aim High,” and the Army once challenged young recruits to “Be All You Can Be.” Ohio should not stand in the way of military spouses heeding that advice and accepting that challenge at home or at work.
Brianna McKinnon is a special-education teacher and a military spouse whose family is stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.