Current Schooling Options Don’t Meet Military Family Needs, Study Finds

Published December 1, 2017

‘Dramatic Disconnect’

“The schooling options military parents are able to access now don’t match what they want for their children,” said Paul DiPerna, vice president of research and innovation for EdChoice and coauthor of “Surveying the Military: What America’s Servicemembers, Veterans, and Their Spouses Think about K-12 Education and the Profession,” released in October 2017.

“What we learned in the survey signals a dramatic disconnect with military families’ actual school enrollment patterns in the United States,” DiPerna told School Reform News. “About 80 percent of military-connected students attend public district schools across the country, but nearly two out of three parents in our survey would first choose a school setting other than their local district school.”

Making Sacrifices

“Military parents are much more likely than the national average to take costly and inconvenient steps to secure and accommodate their children’s education,” the study reported. “More than twice the number of military-connected parents (44 percent) report taking an additional job compared to the one out of five parents (21 percent) in the general public. Military households (37 percent) are twice as likely (17 percent) to say they have moved to be closer to their child’s school than the national average.”

Strong Support for ESAs

DiPerna says education savings accounts (ESAs), which grant parents access to the funding allocated to their child’s government-school education for use on educational alternatives such as learning therapies, private school tuition, and homeschool textbooks, appeal strongly to military families.

“Military-connected respondents were almost five times more likely to say they supported ESAs than opposed them after hearing a description: 72 percent favor vs. 15 percent oppose,” DiPerna said. “The subgroup of current school parents showed the strongest support for ESAs once given a description of how the program type works. That population’s support for ESAs increased by 17 points, from 61 percent to 78 percent.”

‘A Matter of National Security’

Lindsey Burke, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy and a coauthor of the study, says providing a quality education for military families is vital to the national interest.

“Our study underscores that the need for education choice for military families is not just a matter of good education policy; it’s a matter of national security,” Burke said. “The schooling options available to military families can play a role in whether they remain in or leave military service, making education choice a matter of service member retention.”

‘A Unique Opportunity’

Burke says the role of the military uniquely qualifies these families for federal aid in education.

“National security is a federal responsibility, which is why the education of military-connected children has a special place as a federal education program,” Burke said. “Congress has a unique opportunity to create education choice for the children of service members as a result, which would empower military families with decision-making authority over their children’s education and strengthen retention in the armed services generally.”

Michael McGrady ([email protected]) writes from Colorado Springs, Colorado.


Paul DiPerna, Lindsey M. Burke, and Anne Ryland, “Surveying the Military: What America’s Servicemembers, Veterans, and Their Spouses Think about K-12 Education and the Profession,” EdChoice, October 16, 2017: