School choice for military families could pave the way for a stronger America


September 26, 2018 9:57AM

There are two things nearly every American cares about: our children and our military. With that in mind,  how can we make our children smarter and our military stronger simultaneously? Approximately 1.2 million children have an active-duty military parent, and schooling options for these children can affect whether or not a family decides to accept an assignment. According to a report by education experts Lindsey Burke and Anne Ryland, however, “more than half of all active-duty military families live in states with no school choice options at all.”

Why does this matter? Children from military families are more likely to join the military in the future, and the better educated they are, the stronger and more effective our military will be. How do we fix this? The Heritage Foundation proposed a solution which includes transforming Impact Aid—a $1.3 billion program historically used to support education for children connected to the military and to the state and to reimburse local areas for loss in tax income due to untaxed federal properties—into Education Savings Accounts (ESA).  An ESA is an account where parents have access to about 90% of what the government would spend on their child in the public school system. An ESA works just like a Health Savings Account and allows parents to spend the money already allotted to their child by the government on any educational service, including private school, tutoring, books, and the leftover money can even be used for college.

Transitioning Impact Aid to an ESA program will provide more opportunities for military families to educate their children in a way that best suits their unique lifestyles. School choice is important for all Americans, but specifically active-duty families because they move around so often. The military family lifestyle leads to many unknowns, especially for children who have to change schools, on average, every two years. If Impact Aid is developed into parent-controlled ESAs, military families would have much more control over where their children went to school, which would result in less apprehension to accept an assignment in an area with no educational choice options.

Ultimately, better schooling options for military children leads to a stronger military both now and in the future. This innovative approach to school choice will allow parents to take control of their children’s education, granting them the ability to accept assignments, regardless of the school choice options in the region. A pillar upon which the United States was founded is personal liberty, and Education Savings Accounts embody this principle by transferring children’s futures from the hands of the federal government into the hands of parents.