In an effort to ease the strain of frequent relocations, two Republican senators have introduced companion legislation to a House measure that would expand school choice for military families.
Republican Sens. Tim Scott of South Carolina and Ben Sasse of Nebraska supplemented the bill introduced last week by Rep. Jim Banks, R.-Ind., which would allow parents in the armed forces to establish education savings accounts. Military parents would be offered the opportunity to divert a portion of funds that would have been sent to a public school on behalf of their child under the federal Impact Aid program and use the money for alternative schooling options.
The education savings accounts could be used to pay for educational expenses such as private school tuition, tutoring, online courses, textbooks and other associated costs. Each year, military parents could roll over unspent funds into college savings accounts for their children.
“As someone with two brothers who served long, distinguished careers in our military, I have seen firsthand the daily sacrifices our service members make on behalf of their nation,” Scott told The Washington Free Beacon. “It should be our responsibility to take care of them and their families whenever possible. A great way to pay-it-forward is to make sure our military youth have the best academic options at their disposal.”
According to the latest statistics released by the Pentagon, approximately 1.82 million American children have a parent serving in the armed forces, and will likely relocate six to nine times during their school careers. Scott said that approximately 50 percent of those children reside in states that offer no options for school choice.
In a 2017 survey conducted by the Military Times, more than a third of service members said that dissatisfaction with a child’s education is a significant factor in determining whether to remain in the military. Forty percent reported that they had either declined or would decline a career-advancing opportunity at a different base if it meant their child would have to leave a high performing school.
“This is emotional, it takes a toll on families,” said Banks. “We want our men and women in uniform to focus on their job and what they do, not be focused on whether or not their kids might have a good school option when they move to the next base. At the end of the day, it’s a readiness issue.”
Banks contended that his legislation would assist the armed services in overcoming current challenges with low recruitment and retention rates.
“This gives service members more peace of mind that they can find other options, whether it’s a private school or to offset the cost of homeschooling,” Banks said. “It’s a tremendous benefit to those families.”
More than three dozen Republicans cosponsored the House bill, which is also supported by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.