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Military kids are given the chance at a great education

December 1, 2015

The terrible events in Paris recently—coming just off of the heels of our annual Veteran’s Day holiday—remind us how much we owe our men and women in the U.S. military. Their sacrifices for their own safety at home and abroad often come at the expense of their families and is a powerful expression of bravery.

The children of military parents have multiple challenges. Not only are their parent(s) putting themselves at risk for the safety of our nation, but life in the military often means multiple stations around the country and even overseas. These children can expect to move from school to school frequently. According to the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), nearly 60 percent of the children in military families are of school-age. The average military family will move 6-9 times during a child’s K-12 experience.

For military families, finding a high-quality education often means starting a new search for a good school with every move. Yet in Arizona, education savings accounts are available automatically to children of military parents—and the idea is spreading to the other states that have enacted the flexible accounts. In this way, families can continue to use the same or similar educational providers even if they move across the state.

Lawmakers in Nevada, Tennessee, Mississippi, Florida, and Arizona have made education savings accounts available to thousands of children in these states. Families and students can use the accounts to take classes online, save for college, pay private school tuition, or find a personal tutor, among other uses. Eligible students must attend a public school before they can apply to use an account.

Yet in an effort to help our men and women in uniform, the Goldwater Institute and our allies including the American Federation for Children partnered with Rep. Sonny Borrelli (a former Marine) in 2014 to make children from active duty military families exempt from this requirement.

As these students move from place to place, the accounts can allow them to remain in the same or find similar private schools, online classes, or even public school services even if they live in a different neighborhood. In the 2015-16 school year, nearly 275 of the 2,400 Arizona children using accounts are in military families.

The Institute applauds Nevada Treasurer Dan Schwartz and Gov. Brian Sandoval for supporting the same regulation. Nevada’s education savings accounts are available to all 450,000 children attending a public school in that state, but students still must attend a public school before applying for an account. As Nevada policymakers design the rules and regulations for the new program, Treasurer Schwartz, with the support of Gov. Sandoval, are considering exempting children from military families from this requirement.

States making education savings accounts available to students should watch Arizona’s law carefully because it has the longest track record of do’s and don’t’s (lawmakers enacted Arizona’s law in 2011, while three of the other savings account laws went into effect earlier this year). The Institute, alongside our allies, have designed ways to help incoming kindergarten students avoid failing public schools and use education savings accounts instead; expanded eligibility from children with special needs to a wide variety of children across the state; and suggested methods for preventing and dealing with financial fraud in the accounts.

As the 2016 legislative session approaches, state lawmakers that have enacted education savings accounts or are considering the accounts should make the accounts available to children from military families automatically. This is the very least we can do for those protecting us.

 

 

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