Military ESAs an Important Part of any Education Plan for Servicemembers

Last month, Governor Wolf introduced a proposal to offer college benefits for families of Pa. National Guard members—like a GI Bill for Pennsylvania. He intends his plan to “show that we not only appreciate our Pennsylvania National Guard members’ service, but that we also acknowledge their families’ support and sacrifice.”

Connecting our gratitude with educational opportunity for service members and their families is a phenomenal idea. What could be more valuable than a good education?

Given his clear thinking on this issue, Governor Wolf should jump on board a similar idea for K-12 education.

Representative Andrew Lewis will soon introduce legislation to create Military Education Scholarship Accounts. The accounts, which could be used for a variety of educational services, would be open to children whose parents are on full-time active military duty or were killed in the line of duty.

An Army vet and current member of the Pa. National Guard, Lewis understands the difficult circumstances military families face:

Frequent reassignments bring dramatic changes and an unpredictable education environment for students. A parent-controlled, state-administered ESA is the best means to ensure parents can choose what school best fits their child’s needs wherever they are stationed.

The differences in curriculum and school requirements that accompany the frequent moves result in educational gaps for military children. These gaps often cause children to miss crucial topics and repeat classes.

The education issue severely impacts retention and preparedness in our armed forces. A 2017 Military Times survey of service members found 35 percent of respondents said “dissatisfaction with a child’s education was or is ‘a significant factor’ in deciding whether or not to continue military service.”

The Military Times survey also found many service members consider quality of schools a factor in deciding whether to accept a new assignment. By expanding educational opportunities, we can attract more military families to live and work in Pennsylvania.

ESAs are the prime solution to these educational struggles. In fact, military personnel and their spouses are five times more likely to support ESAs than oppose them. Why? Because access to a better academic environment and more freedom and flexibility for parents are vital to the effectiveness of a highly-mobile military service member.

Governor Wolf is correct that our armed forces deserve to have their sacrifices honored. No child’s education should be a casualty of their parent’s military service.

We trust military members with the security of our nation. Let’s also trust them to direct the education of their own children.