The Honorable John McCain
The Honorable Mac Thornberry
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Dear Chairman John McCain, Chairman Mac Thornberry, Ranking Member Jack Reed, and Ranking Member Adam Smith:
We the undersigned current members of the U.S. armed forces, veterans, and military families are writing to express our strong support for the Education Savings Account for Military Families Act of 2018 (H.R. 5199), recently introduced by Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.). If signed into law, this legislation would allow parents of military-connected children to establish voluntary Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) to pay for whatever educational service works best for their children.
As you already know, recruiting and retaining talent in the military is a challenging task, but one that is vital to military readiness and national security. Part of this challenge is due to the lack of high-quality educational options available for the children of military families. According to a survey conducted by Military Times, 35 percent of readers, largely active duty military families say that dissatisfaction with their children's education was a significant factor in their decision to remain or leave military service.
Families who serve in the armed forces move from duty station to duty station with little choice in where they live or what schools their children attend. Military-connected children are too often assigned to the district schools closest in proximity to military bases, regardless of whether those schools meet their needs. More than half of all active-duty military families live in states with no school choice options at all.
This is a problem Congress can solve. By providing education choice through ESAs, the military will possess a key tool to both attract and retain military families that will help reduce turnover, save valuable resources, and retain institutional knowledge and skills necessary to defeat the enemy.
But this bill is about more than saving money or retaining talent. Military families already sacrifice so much on the battlefield, but far too often Washington fails them off the battlefield. Men and women in the armed forces have earned the right to send their children to whatever school or educational service provider they believe will benefit their family. Armed with a military ESA, parents can send their children to a private school, take individual classes at a public school, school at home, use an online learning program, hire a private tutor, and eventually use any surplus to help pay for college.
Every year Congress considers the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which sets the policies and authorizes the budgets for the U.S. Department of Defense. As you consider adding new policies in this year’s NDAA, please consider including Rep. Banks’ Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act of 2018 to help strengthen the military and better serve military families.