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The Leaflet: Military Families Oppose War Against School Choice

November 10, 2017

This week's Leaflet examines a study by EdChoice that finds military families favor private school choice programs.

Military families are overwhelmingly in favor of private school choice programs, a new report by EdChoice has found. The survey, titled “Surveying the Military,” included 1,200 active-duty personnel, veterans, and their spouses and showed 72 percent are in favor of education savings accounts (ESAs), 64 percent are in favor of school vouchers, and 63 percent favor tax-credit scholarships. Additionally, the survey results show 51 percent of military respondents believe K–12 education is on the wrong track. 

The EdChoice researchers report military parents are more active than other groups of parents and say they need flexibility when it comes to their children’s education: “Military families are proactive in the way they support their children’s education, and direct receipt of funds—perhaps via ESAs—could extend their involvement and further personalize the education of military-connected students whose lives require immense mobility and flexibility. 

“Our survey findings indicate policy influencers and policymakers have a real opportunity to address military families’ preferences for personalized student learning and greater access to options in K–12 education,” the researchers added.

The information presented by EdChoice is similar to a recent survey produced by the Military Times. According to that poll, 35 percent of respondents say their dissatisfaction with their children’s education was a significant factor in deciding whether to continue with their military service. Forty percent said they have either declined or would decline a better job opportunity to remain at their current military facility because of well-performing schools. The survey concluded, “The men and women who wear the uniform are at risk of voting with their feet if the education of their children suffers because of their choice to serve the nation.”

The success of school choice programs has been well documented, and many families have taken notice of it. In 2016, EdChoice released important empirical research on private school choice programs. According to the researchers, 31 empirical studies found expanded choice options improved public schools; 25 found choice programs saved taxpayers’ money; and eight found school choice strengthened civic values and practices.

Legislators in states with a large number of active-duty military personnel should be mindful of these surveys. Florida and North Carolina, both of which are in the top 10 of states with the highest active-duty populations, have enacted private school choice programs, but California, Hawaii, Kentucky, and Texas are devoid of any, despite having large military family populations.

In a new Research & Commentary on military families’ views on school choice, Heartland Policy Analyst Timothy Benson concluded, “There is no time like the present to help ease the burdens of these courageous men and women. ESAs, vouchers, tax-credit scholarships – none of these programs should be off the table for legislators in 2018. For our servicemen and veterans, it is the least we can do.”

WHAT WE'RE WORKING ON
Energy & Environment
How the Premature Retirement of Coal-Fired Power Plants Affects Energy Reliability, Affordability
More than 250 coal-fired power plants in the United States have been retired since 2010. Many more are scheduled for retirement. By prematurely closing coal-powered generation, regulators are imposing billions and potentially trillions of dollars of unnecessary costs on ratepayers. In this Heartland Institute Policy Study, Research Fellow Isaac Orr and Senior Fellow Fred Palmer discuss Australia’s experience with policies that forced coal-fired power plants into premature retirement, making large parts of the country dependent on unreliable and high-priced renewable energy, particularly wind power. They also examine the parallels between the United States and Australia and discuss problems faced by states that have aggressively promoted renewable energy, examine the importance of “prudence” and diversified energy portfolios, and evaluate a U.S. Department of Energy study that correctly identifies natural gas-fired power generators as a reason for coal plant retirements but fails to describe accurately the role played by renewable energy subsidies in those retirement decisions.

Education
Research & Commentary: The Need for Universal ESAs in New Hampshire
In this Research & Commentary, Policy Analyst Tim Benson writes about a recently resurrected bill making its way through the New Hampshire House of Representatives that would establish a universal education savings account (ESA) program in the Granite State. Funding for each ESA would equal 90 percent of New Hampshire’s per-pupil adequate education grant amount, except for the kindergarten year, in which funding would be 50 percent. Leftover funds would carry over each year of the child’s eligibility and would be available to help pay for tuition at postsecondary schools or used to fund the federal 530 college savings plan, also known as the Coverdell Education Savings Account program. Passage of the bill and establishment of the program would instantly bring New Hampshire to the forefront of the education choice movement. 

Health Care
Bobbi Herzberg, Mercatus Center: The Attack of the Zombie Obamacare Death Panel
In this edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, the Mercatus Center’s Bobbi Herzberg joins the show to talk about the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a forgotten part of the Affordable Care Act once referred to as “death panels.” Instead of allowing the board to just shamble around without a head, Herzberg says Congress should put IPAB out of its misery and eliminate it entirely. 

Budget & Tax
Research & Commentary: Vaping Taxes and Bans Hurt Smokers Trying to Quit
In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans and State Government Relations Manager Lindsey Stroud examine vaping bans and taxes and how they block what is for many smokers a viable method for quitting. “Placing excise taxes and bans on vaping products deter current smokers from quitting more-harmful combustible cigarettes, disproportionately harm low-income taxpayers, and punish local businesses. If state lawmakers prevent local governments from imposing regressive taxes and bans on vaping products, it could have a positive impact on public health, by helping more tobacco smokers quit,” wrote Glans and Stroud. 

From Our Free-Market Friends
Let Them Fill Growlers
Jarrett Skorup of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy examines House Bill 5175, currently making its way through Michigan’s state legislature. According to Skorup, the bill “lowers the threshold by one major step to make it easier for people to buy and sell beer” and “expands the ability for people to freely buy a legal product with no cost to the state or other residents.” Michigan has some of the most burdensome regulations on the production, transportation, and sale of alcohol. These regulations artificially increase the price of alcohol and ensure the existence of a black market. The passage of HB 5175 would be a step in the direction of freedom.

Author
Arianna Wilkerson is a government relations speciialist with The Heartland Institute.
awilkerson@heartland.org