More than 2,000 military veterans, spouses, and other family members have signed a letter in support of a bill creating federally funded education savings accounts for military families to provide more choices and flexibility in schooling the children of those in the armed forces.
The signers “are writing to express our strong support for the Education Savings Account for Military Families Act of 2018,” they say in the letter released Tuesday by Heritage Action for America, the lobbying arm of The Heritage Foundation.
The letter—sent to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees—supports a bill introduced March 7 by Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind.
The legislation would establish a new kind of education savings account that military families could use to increase school choice options by paying for certain expenses.
“According to a survey conducted by Military Times, 35 percent of readers, largely active-duty military families, say that dissatisfaction with their children’s education was a significant factor in their decision to remain or leave military service,” the letter says.
In a statement provided to The Daily Signal, Banks said the number of signatures on the letter shows the importance of the issue to military families.
“It’s clear that military families want more choice on how to best educate their children,” Banks said. “Every single one of these families has made tremendous sacrifices to serve our country, but their child’s education should not be one of them.”
The bill, currently before the House Education and Workforce Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, would cover options such as private, online learning programs, private school tuition, individual classes and extracurricular programs at public schools, computer hardware, textbooks, and curriculums and other instructional materials, according to a report from The Heritage Foundation, which has supported the idea.
“Families who serve in the armed forces move from duty station to duty station with little choice in where they live or what schools their children attend,” the letter says. “Military-connected children are too often assigned to the district schools closest in proximity to military bases, regardless of whether those schools meet their needs. More than half of all active-duty military families live in states with no school-choice options at all.”
Sens. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., and Tim Scott, R-S.C., introduced a companion bill in the Senate on March 7.
“This bill lets parents customize their kids’ education, letting them find the opportunities that fit their family’s needs,” Sasse said in a written statement. “All of us should want to make sure that the decision to defend our freedom doesn’t mean kids miss out on the best education options available.”
The signers of the letter ask lawmakers to consider including the Banks legislation in the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets policies and spending priorities for the Defense Department.
“As you consider adding new policies in this year’s NDAA,” they write, “please consider including Rep. Banks’ Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act of 2018 to help strengthen the military and better serve military families.”