The Leaflet: Military Families Oppose War Against School Choice

Published November 10, 2017

Military families are overwhelmingly in favor of private school choice programs, a new report by EdChoice has found. The survey, titled “Surveying the Military,” included 1,200 active-duty personnel, veterans, and their spouses and showed 72 percent are in favor of education savings accounts (ESAs), 64 percent are in favor of school vouchers, and 63 percent favor tax-credit scholarships. Additionally, the survey results show 51 percent of military respondents believe K–12 education is on the wrong track. 

The EdChoice researchers report military parents are more active than other groups of parents and say they need flexibility when it comes to their children’s education: “Military families are proactive in the way they support their children’s education, and direct receipt of funds—perhaps via ESAs—could extend their involvement and further personalize the education of military-connected students whose lives require immense mobility and flexibility. 

“Our survey findings indicate policy influencers and policymakers have a real opportunity to address military families’ preferences for personalized student learning and greater access to options in K–12 education,” the researchers added.

The information presented by EdChoice is similar to a recent survey produced by the Military Times. According to that poll, 35 percent of respondents say their dissatisfaction with their children’s education was a significant factor in deciding whether to continue with their military service. Forty percent said they have either declined or would decline a better job opportunity to remain at their current military facility because of well-performing schools. The survey concluded, “The men and women who wear the uniform are at risk of voting with their feet if the education of their children suffers because of their choice to serve the nation.”

The success of school choice programs has been well documented, and many families have taken notice of it. In 2016, EdChoice released important empirical research on private school choice programs. According to the researchers, 31 empirical studies found expanded choice options improved public schools; 25 found choice programs saved taxpayers’ money; and eight found school choice strengthened civic values and practices.

Legislators in states with a large number of active-duty military personnel should be mindful of these surveys. Florida and North Carolina, both of which are in the top 10 of states with the highest active-duty populations, have enacted private school choice programs, but California, Hawaii, Kentucky, and Texas are devoid of any, despite having large military family populations.

In a new Research & Commentary on military families’ views on school choice, Heartland Policy Analyst Timothy Benson concluded, “There is no time like the present to help ease the burdens of these courageous men and women. ESAs, vouchers, tax-credit scholarships – none of these programs should be off the table for legislators in 2018. For our servicemen and veterans, it is the least we can do.”

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