All across America, military families are making personal sacrifices to keep our country safe. As a veteran who served overseas and away from my family, I know the toll service takes on those who wear the uniform and their families.
But military families should not have to sacrifice the quality of their children’s education to serve our country.
Currently, more than half of military families live in states with no school choice options whatsoever. For these families, if a child is assigned to a poor-performing local school, they must pay out of pocket for better alternatives—an option that is not feasible for many who are enlisted.
Our military is already struggling to recruit the best and the brightest to serve. Research shows the number of active-duty troops is at the lowest level since 2001, and the average age of those enlisted has steadily grown.
There is good reason to believe that the lack of education options for military families contributes to these results.
A survey conducted by the Military Times found that 35 percent of its readers would consider leaving the military due to the lack of education choice, and 40 percent have declined or would decline a career advancement if it meant their child would be forced to leave a higher-performing school.
The decision to serve is already a difficult and life-changing one for many families, and there shouldn’t be additional, unnecessary barriers. To address this issue, I recently introduced the Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act.
This legislation would provide military families with the option of opening an education savings account that could fund education expenses such as private school tuition, textbooks, online classes, private tutoring, and college tuition. These accounts would be tax-free and give families the ability to tailor their child’s education to their needs.
Education savings accounts would use a small portion of funding from a federal program called Impact Aid. This program provides school districts with revenue lost due to the presence of tax-exempt federal property. Under Education Savings Accounts, that funding would directly benefit the individual student rather than the school.
Recent analysis has shown very limited impact on these schools, even when assuming a much higher utilization rate than we have seen from education savings account programs that are currently in place. Furthermore, no Impact Aid funding that goes to non-military-connected students would be used for this program.
The most important responsibility of the federal government is to maintain a military that is able to protect our country. We cannot continue to push away high-quality recruits by restricting the educational options available to their children.
The Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act will ensure that this does not happen.
As a nation, we can show our support for the men and women who serve by giving them the choice of how to best educate our next generation of leaders.