Honoring Veterans with Parental Choice in EducationVicki Alger • Wednesday November 11, 2015 5:05 PM PDT •
Today we say ‘thank you for your service’ to our veterans willing to sacrifice their lives for our liberties. But we need to back up our words with actions.
As the National Military Family Association notes:
In today’s all-volunteer force, more than half have families, and as they transition out of the military, these new veterans and their families need a tremendous amount of support. …Our military children need support long after their parent becomes a veteran. We can’t ignore the need for resources and empowerment for each member of the veteran family.
One of the best ways to show our gratitude is to fight for veterans’ freedom to educate their children where—and how—they see fit. Thankfully, a growing number of states are expanding education options for military families—including California, which leads the country with the largest military population. As Nereida Moreno reported for the Daily Breeze:
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill allowing active military members stationed in California to enroll their children in the school district of their choice without a “veto” from the home district.
Authored by Assemblyman David Hadley, R-Manhattan Beach, AB 306 will go into effect in January 2016. He said the law will help military families concentrate their efforts on securing positions in school districts that are right for their children. …
“We have a big challenge to make the L.A. base [Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo] as competitive as possible and attractive as possible,” he said. “We know from people on the base that our public schools options are one of the most important things for military families. By improving the options for people, we’re really improving the attraction of the base.” …
“I am so pleased that the families stationed at LAAFB, and other military installations across the state, will be able to select the school that is best for their children,” said state Sen. Ben Allen, who represents the coastal South Bay. “These families face many challenges in the service of our country, and this new policy is an important way to show our support for them.”
[See more from Assemblyman Hadley here.]
California is just the latest of a growing number of states that empower military parents with educational choice. Several other states have parental choice programs that give Active Duty military parents even more education options, including private, online, and home schools. Arizona has four distinct programs in operation, while recently-enacted programs in Arkansas and Nevada will become operational next year.
Perhaps the most innovative and expansive advance in parental choice for military and civilian families alike are education savings accounts, or ESAs. These programs allow parents to opt their children out of public schools, and the state deposits at least 90 percent of what it would have spent into the their child’s ESA instead.
With those funds, parents pay for a variety of education services, including private school tuition, online courses, home school curricula, and tutoring. Leftover funds roll over from one year to the next for future education expenses, including college tuition under Arizona’s ESA.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval also recently endorsed exempting students of military parents from the existing 100-day public school prior-enrollment regulation under its ESA program, which aligns with the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children designed to streamline school admission for military dependents whose families move frequently.
Parental choice programs, especially ESA programs in Arizona and Nevada, should be implemented in other states to help military families find the best education for their children. Congress should also take note.
Currently, the feds put restrictions on veterans’ earned education benefits. In particular, veterans cannot use their education funding for their children’s preschool through high school education.
What’s more, there’s a use-it-or-lose-it policy toward veterans’ earned college funding. Veterans who do not need or want a college or advanced degree cannot pass on their funding for their school-age children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews to use now.
Veterans’ should be fully empowered to direct their hard-earned education benefits as they see fit through ESAs—without having to worry that they’ll forfeit their benefits if they don’t use them in time.
Our veterans didn’t put limits on what they were willing to sacrifice for our liberty. We should honor their sacrifice by ensuring they have unlimited freedom to choose the education they think in best for their children now, not years from now.