Ask any military family with kids and they’ll tell you that one of the most stressful parts of getting orders to a new duty station is figuring out where their kids will go to school.
Not only do they have to rent or buy a new home—usually choosing one while still living in another state or even continent—they have to do so with little or no information about schools in the area. Often, families rely solely on Google searches and some gouge (information) from other military families before settling on a new home and school. Then they hope and pray they’ve chosen wisely.
Thankfully, states like Arizona have given military families a helping hand. Their Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) program provides K-12 scholarships for kids from military families by allowing parents to customize their child's education. Parents can use the account for private school tuition, tutoring, textbooks and more.
According to former public school teacher and army veteran Kathy Visser, “having access to this incredible program has literally saved my special needs son and my family.”
Like Kathy and her son, more than 800 children from military families in Arizona found educational freedom through the state’s ESA program last year.
And it’s no wonder that hundreds of kids took advantage of the program because, as an EdChoice survey of military members highlighted, military kids face a transient educational career. Parents are often forced to choose a school from thousands of miles away, and they have to do it repeatedly. The vast majority of parents reported sending their oldest child to more than one school for K-12. Nearly 20% reported their oldest child attending five or more schools. The flexibility of an ESA program can help military parents provide their kids with a consistent education experience. That’s just one of the reasons active service members overwhelmingly support school choice programs.
The survey also found that seven of 10 service members and their spouses support education choice programs like ESAs, vouchers, and charter schools. Support for ESAs outpaces opposition nearly 5-to-1.
When service members aren’t given this opportunity, they are far more likely than civilian parents to take out loans to afford a school that meets their child’s needs. This is a financial burden our service members and their kids should not have to bear.
Here in Pennsylvania, Representative Andrew Lewis has introduced a similar bill to create Military Education Scholarship Accounts. House Bill 1296 would provide ESAs for children whose parents are on full-time active military duty or were killed in the line of duty.
Rep. Lewis knows a thing or two about military life. He’s a 10-year army combat veteran with multiple tours and a father of three.
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.
Rep. Andrew Lewis
Pennsylvania has five military bases and 2,552 active duty military personnel, with an estimated 1,263 school-age children of active duty military parents.
For Pennsylvania’s military families, Rep. Lewis’ bill meets the unique challenges they face head-on. Let’s honor the sacrifice of Pennsylvania service members by giving their children the best chance to thrive.