An education scholar believes school choice for the children of military members “is a national security concern,” he said Wednesday.
School choice is imperative to retaining military members, Pacific Research Institute Senior Director of Education Studies Lance Izumi explained while speaking with The Daily Caller News Foundation. The scholar was reacting to a letter opposing a school choice bill a coalition sent to Congress, claiming to represent over 5.5 million military members or veterans.
“To me, this is a national security concern,” Izumi told TheDCNF. “The military isn’t just about the latest hardware. National security involves being able to keep your soldiers…in the military.”
“Many military people make their decisions about whether they want to stay in or leave the military because of the lack of quality education for their children,” the scholar asserted.
Seventy-two percent of active or former military members support education savings accounts (ESAs), which allow parents to choose their children’s schools, according to a 2017 EdChoice survey of 1,200 active-duty military members, veterans, and spouses. Thirty-five percent of military members termed dissatisfaction with their children’s education a “significant factor” when considering whether to stay in the military, according to a 2017 poll of over 200 Military Times readers. Seventy-eight percent of whom had served at least 11 years in the Armed Forces.
Forty percent of the Military Times survey respondents have or would turn down a higher position at the military because they would like to remain in a region with high-performing schools, they said.
The Military Coalition did not share Izumi’s opinions in a letter it addressed to Congress’ House Education and House Armed Services Committees opposing H.R. 5199 — the pro-school choice Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act — according to WaPo.
“Using [public school] Impact Aid dollars to fund [ESAs] for military-connected students would be financially devastating for many school districts,” the coalition stated.
“Additionally, we note that relatively few families would be eligible for an ESA under the legislation — and among those [who] would be eligible, the majority would receive ESAs of only $2,500.”
But $2,500 could be the difference between a military family opting to enroll their children in a private school or not, according to the Pacific Research Institute scholar. Izumi also contested all the coalition’s millions of military members and veterans who endorsed the statement.
The scholar cited one South Carolina middle school student’s history of bullying and harassment, suggesting school choice could have helped her, as well as the school.
The unnamed student’s parents sued Hand Middle School in Columbia, South Carolina, alleging the school did not take adequate action when other students bullied the parents’ black honors student for “acting white.”
Students allegedly called the female student “Oreo” and “white girl,” as well as shoving, tripping, and pushing her. The abuse reportedly escalated, with students beating the girl with a bottle and throwing a backpack into her face, chipping two teeth.
“How [is the Military Coalition] going to address this poor kid?” Izumi asked. “Why aren’t they worried about the safety of this child and the complaints of that military … father instead of worrying about the concerns of district bureaucrats and their budgets?”
School choice could have enabled the student to switch schools, as well as given Hand Middle School incentive to improve lest they lose students, the scholar argued.
Izumi expressed optimism, regarding the passage of the Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act through Congress, arguing since Congress approved the omnibus, which increased military funding, it should also be “very receptive” to the Betsy DeVos-backed bill.
“Unlike those military associations that prioritize the concerns of school district bureaucracies, President [Donald] Trump once again shows that he has the back of individual service members and their families,” Izumi told TheDCNF. “The president and Secretary DeVos want to give children of military families the opportunity to access safer and higher performing schools, and that goal should be our nation’s priority.”
The House Armed Services Committee declined to comment on pending legislation to TheDCNF. TheDCNF reached out to the Department of Education, as well as the House Education Committee but received no comment in time for press.