Armed Forces News

Bolstered by numbers showing that service members often peg continuing their careers on the quality of education their children receive, a conservative think tank is proposing widespread changes that would expand options.

In a June 2 white paper, the Washington-based Heritage Foundation outlined its plan to establish education savings accounts for military families, which “would provide children … with an education choice,” while bolstering the existing Impact Aid federal programs that now serves them. (Under Impact Aid, public school districts near military bases receive federal money to offset the costs of educating military children.)

Essentially, the Heritage Foundation is championing what it calls “A GI Bill for Military Families,” which would give military families greater leeway in selecting private schools over public ones. Many military families would prefer the opportunity to use private schools, Heritage states, but simply cannot afford the tuition.

The choice is necessary, the group says, claims, becausecaps,” Heritage states.

The Heritage Foundation’s plan would:

·      Redirect Impact Aid money to families, rather than public school districts.

·      Change Impact Aid, to allow families to use their share of the $1.3 billion the program gets as they see fit. They could “choose what works for their children and [ensure] that a service member’s decision to stay in the military does not hinge on outdated assignment-by-zip-code schooling policies.”

·      Shift Impact Aid funding into “parent-controlled education savings accounts.

The Heritage Foundation also seeks changes in the Department of Defense Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools (DDESS) program, which operates 57 schools on 15 stateside installations on the East Coast. The system is expensive — too much so, perhaps, to justify its existence in its present state, Heritage contends. Furthermore, the group said, DDESS is not performing well.

“In most cases, the local district schools in areas near bases with DDESS schools are not providing an adequate education and are struggling to keep up with national averages of academic performance,” Heritage stated.

Adapting DDESS to accommodate education savings accounts would improve the system and ensure its viability for the future, according to Heritage.