Proposed School Voucher Bill May Cost Military Families More Than Expected
Are you a military family with kids in public school?
If so, you’ll need to pay attention to this.
A proposal is making its way through Congress that would use Impact Aid funds to create school vouchers for some military-connected kids. The bill already has more than 50 co-sponsors, and these supporters want it attached to the National Defense Authorization Act—the must-pass legislation that sets policy for the Department of Defense.
This bill is a bad deal for military families, and we need your help to make sure Congress knows that.
On the surface, the bill might seem like a good idea. Who wouldn’t want a voucher to help pay for private school expenses? The reality will be different. This bill would hurt many more military families than could possibly benefit from it.
What’s wrong with this proposal?
It would use Impact Aid money to fund school vouchers. Most public schools receive a large percentage of their funding from local property taxes. Federal lands, such as military installations, aren’t subject to local property tax, so school districts that include such properties receive less tax revenue than they otherwise would. Impact Aid was created to offset the loss of property tax revenue. Many of the schools serving military-connected kids are highly dependent on Impact Aid. Reducing Impact Aid funding would make it more difficult for schools to offer military children the high-quality education they need and deserve.
While it’s hard to predict how much funding Impact Aid would lose, and exactly how individual school districts would be affected, we know the administrative costs to set up and maintain such a program would be expensive, so we can assume the loss of funds to Impact Aid would be severe.
It would take money from your child’s public school to pay for another’s preschool or college. Right now, the bill doesn’t set a minimum age requirement, and allows students to use the funds for post-secondary expenses until age 22. This means a two-year-old in preschool would be as eligible to receive the voucher as a young adult about to graduate from college. What happens to the children in public elementary, middle, and high schools? Unfortunately, those public schools will lose funding they currently receive. And we know what this means—education quality may suffer even more.
It would benefit only a few military families, and the eligibility criteria are completely random. The bill would provide a $4500 voucher to families who live in “heavily impacted” school districts. Only about 30 school districts across the country qualify as “heavily impacted,” since they have to meet specific criteria—like how many military kids they serve, the local property tax rate, and their per pupil spending. It has nothing to do with the quality of local public schools or whether other school choice options are available to military families.
The other category of families who would be eligible for a voucher are those who live on base. Those families could receive $2500.
The bill specifically (and bizarrely) excludes families of “officers in the National Guard.”
The voucher wouldn’t begin to cover education costs. The majority of eligible families—those who live on base—would receive a voucher for only $2500. That’s not nearly enough to cover the costs of private school. Realistically, only those families with the financial means to make up the difference would take advantage of the voucher. Families who couldn’t afford the cost difference would remain in the public school system facing reduced budget numbers due to the loss of Impact Aid.
There are plenty of locations where schools could do a better job serving military students. (We’ve even launched an Education Revolution, calling for higher standards and helping parents advocate for their kids!) But diverting Impact Aid money into vouchers that would benefit only a few military families isn’t the solution.
Do you agree with us that diverting Impact Aid money away from local public schools is a bad deal for military families? Is it okay that your child’s public school receives less funding so another child can attend private school? Should your high schooler’s education suffer because your family may not be able to afford a different school?
We need you to speak up. Tell us your opinion and experience in a comment below—we’ll compile them and share them with policy makers on Capitol Hill. Or you can get in touch with your Member of Congress (which takes less than 15 minutes!).
How do you think this will affect your military family?
Posted April 13, 2018