School vouchers will not help military family children

As a military veteran, I’m honored to have served a country that provides an education for every child. When I was an enlisted Marine, I served with lots of young parents. I saw how deeply they wanted a bright future for their kids. That’s why I’m so disturbed that some members of Congress want to raid Impact Aid to pay for a private school voucher scheme that won’t benefit most military families.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has signaled support for a voucher scheme that would take money from the very schools that serve the children of active-duty military personnel and divert it to private, largely religiously affiliated schools. It’s part of the Trump administration’s plan to “voucherize” education, and it would lead to a serious loss of resources for a special subset of public schools that operate near military bases.

The Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act, the proponents of which are hoping to tack onto the next defense budget, would give military families funds to send their children to private schools, which tend to be religious in nature, or for other education-related expenses. Whatever you feel about tax money going to underwrite a religious education — and to my mind it’s a violation of church-state separation and bad public policy — you should be concerned that the money for the program would come out of something called Impact Aid.

These are the federal funds given to those school districts where federal activities, such as military installations or a Native American reservation, result in depressed tax revenues. Impact Aid ensures that schools have the resources to provide children of military families with a quality education that meets their unique needs.

Service members make incredible sacrifices to keep our nation safe. Impact Aid helps ensure that a quality public education for their children isn’t one of those sacrifices. Federally connected public school boards and superintendents use Impact Aid dollars to address the unique needs of military children, which includes helping those children deal with the stress and anxiety of repeatedly changing schools with the relocation of their parents. Federal funding doesn’t get more patriotic than that, which is why Impact Aid has bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress.

The voucher bill’s proponents claim that it provides military families with choice and will enhance educational attainment. In fact, the choice is for a select group, and the educational boost is illusory.

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