NASSP has long been an opponent of private school vouchers and an active member of the National Coalition on Public Education (NCPE). Private school voucher policies drain necessary funds from our nation’s public school system, are not required to follow many federal nondiscrimination statutes, and have no concrete proof that they serve students better than their public counterparts.
Despite the concerns surrounding voucher proposals, in early March, Representative Jim Banks (IN-03) and Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced H.R.5199/S.2517, the Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act. This bill would siphon dollars from the federal Impact Aid program (a program that assists school districts that lose property tax revenue due to the presence of nontaxable federal land and installations, such as a military base or Native American reservation) to allow funding to follow children with parents on active duty in the uniformed services through a voucher-like education savings account rather than their designated public schools.
H.R.5199/S.2517 will prove detrimental for public schools that receive Impact Aid dollars while providing very little benefit to the majority of military families. Only students who live on a military base and have a parent in the military are eligible for the voucher. This represents less than half of all military-connected children. Additionally, the voucher will benefit only those families already able to enroll their children in private schools. The voucher amount is $2,500 (with a small percentage of $4,500 vouchers for students in “heavily impacted districts”), but the average annual cost of a private elementary school is $7,700, with private high school costing around $13,030. Most military families are not wealthy enough to even use this voucher. In response to these concerns, National Military Family Association and the Military Officers Association of America have both come out in opposition to this bill.
Not only will the schools that receive Impact Aid suffer if this bill passes, but the Impact Aid program as a whole will be severely affected as well. As of 2016, Impact Aid has provided funding for over 1,300 school districts and more than 11 million students. As you can see from the graphic below, this bill would drain an estimated $450 million from the Impact Aid program. Such a significant funding reduction would severely hinder a school district’s ability to maintain the staff, programs, services, and infrastructure necessary to support these students.
Even with these concerns, there is now a chance that these bills are offered as amendments to the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Congress is currently working on NDAA, so now is the time to contact your members and let them know that you oppose private school vouchers for military-connected students. Take action now!