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Support our troops? Support education choice for their kids

MOVE OUT: U.S. Marines at Camp Pendleton, California, preparing for deployment, Oct. 24, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by LCpl Anabel Abreu Rodriguez)

Among the many burdens we place on military families, there’s frequent re-location from one military duty station to another – one year you’re in North Carolina, the next in Southern California or Norfolk, Virginia or even Germany or Japan. These are not combat zones but some of the places the military send both the military member and his or her spouse and family. Part of that is requiring children of a military family to pack up and move their lives, including their ongoing education, to another state or even nation.

In California, there are 32 military bases of all four branches plus the Coast Guard with thousands of military families at each base. At Camp Pendleton alone there are 42,000 active duty military personnel serving on base – many, many of them with families that include school-age children.

Those children (and their parents) find themselves at the mercy of the local public school districts. Sometimes these schools are perform poorly – or are even rated “failing” year after year with no change in sight. Sometimes, the child has special education or other needs that the local school simply cannot take care of.

Like most states, California does not have school-choice options available for such military families. Here, the children of military families are stuck in the school that is simply nearest their parents’ military duty station.

Private school is rarely an option for low-paid military families – the tuition is simply beyond reach. Studies reveal that many times military families, faced with the prospect of placing their children in a school that does not meet their child’s needs, exit the military.

The resulting troop loss is no small matter. Taxpayers pay hundreds of millions of dollars to train military members in many different occupations. Mechanics (jets, trucks, tanks, etc.), doctors, nurses, pilots, special forces, supply or logistics specialists, etc., etc., etc. – all are vital to the national defense. When military members leave the service, our armed forces lose those members’ years of experience, leadership and the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars spent in training them. This places a significant burden on the military budget to replace those service members. In short our national security suffers greatly and this is costly to taxpayers.

There’s a proposal that will largely solve this problem. H.R. 5199 (introduced by Rep. Jim Banks, R–IN) and Senate version S.2517 (Senator Ben Sasse, R–NE) will amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1964. It is also known as the Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act of 2018.

Under these bills, military families would be allowed to establish education savings accounts. It would transition Impact Aid funds the Federal Government already pays to local school districts for the education of military dependents into these accounts. Then the parents could choose the school of their choice – the best place for their child’s education needs. Private schools, parochial schools, private tutoring and even homeschooling expenses would be approved expenses under H.R. 5199. And if there is money left over at the end of the school year, it can be rolled over for the next year – or even for college. Funds not used by the time the child leaves the education system are paid back to the government and the educational savings account for that child is closed.

Just as in the current public school system, the money would follow the child; unlike the current California system, those funds would be allowed to follow the child outside of the public school system. Parents, not a Zip code, would determine educational choice for a child.

Educational Savings Accounts are already a proven success in providing a better education for children. H.R. 5199 will allow military families, including thousands of families stationed in California, the freedom to make the best choices possible for their children. This will likely be a major factor in whether many servicemen and women elect to stay in the military.

Congress members should co-sponsor and vote yes on H.R. 5199 or make this proposal part of the National Defense Authorization Act which is passed every year by Congress to fund our military.

Craig P. Alexander is an attorney and former U.S. Marine who serves as general counsel to the California Policy Center. His office is located in Dana Point, California and his practice includes insurance, commercial leasing, business contracts, the California Public Records Act and HOA law and litigation. He can be reached at Craig@CraigAlexanderLaw.com.

 

NEAACP

My Dear Randi,

Teacher Union Agenda Dysphoria 

Heartless and Mindless

As the National Education Association embarks on a new PR campaign, some of its affiliates engage in lawsuits and strikes.

In July, the National Education Association unearthed its “Strategic Plan and Budget” for 2016-2018. The introduction to the 76-page document includes the notion that the union needs to “win the race to capture the hearts and minds of parents, communities, and educators.”

Hearts and minds?

Well, two months later, let’s just see how that’s working out for the country’s biggest union and some of its state affiliates. In northern California, the Yuba City Teachers Association is in its second week of a strike. The union was asking for a 13 percent raise for its teachers. When the district claimed that there was no way it could afford such a salary hike, the union came back with a counter offer: 15 percent. (No typo.) When asked about the strike, a picketing teacher asserted, “…we have to do this for our students.

Hearts and minds?

Washington State’s charter schools are once again endangered. The Washington Education Association is continuing its battle to remove the Evergreen State’s 12 charter schools and kill any such future endeavors. The union paints charters as unaccountable to voters, proclaims that they are privately run and don’t have elected school boards. The fact that parents send their kids to these schools of choice because the traditional public schools aren’t doing a good job does not matter a whit to the union. Perhaps Heartland Institute’s Bruno Behrend said it best: “The Washington Teachers Unions specifically, and the government education complex in general, once again expose their moral illegitimacy by attempting to destroy education options for Washington’s students and families.”

Hearts and minds?

Launched in 2001, Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship program allows low income families to send their kids to a private school with money that is funded directly through private donations from businesses, which can then earn dollar-for-dollar tax credits from the state for their contributions. The Florida Education Association, which has been fighting against this increasingly popular form of school choice for two years, is running low on options and is about to embark on its final effort: an appeal to the State Supreme Court. If the state court denies FEA’s appeal, the union will just have to live with the ruling. FEA president Joanne McCall is optimistic, however. “The highest level ruled in our favor in 2006. They seem to be the most sane court (sic) that we have.”

But Bishop Victory Curry, chairman of the Save Our Scholarships Coalition, has a problem with FEA. “We are very disappointed that the union will continue its effort to evict more than 90,000 poor, mostly minority children from schools that are working for them. … The union’s decision is wrong for the children, and wrong for our public schools.”

Hearts and Minds?

New Jersey governor Chris Christie is angry, claiming that 27 failing school districts across the state continue to under-perform despite receiving over $100 billion in funding since 1985. He blames various union work rules as a big part of the problem, declaring. “We can no longer tolerate a tenure law that places seniority above effectiveness, or tolerate limits on teaching time that restrict teachers to less than five hours of a seven-hour school day in districts where our students most need quality teachers and intensive instruction.”

The New Jersey Education Association responded by calling Christie’s plea, a “frivolous legal challenge” adding that it was an attempt by Christie to divert attention from the Bridgegate scandal.

Sure.

NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer further explained, “… He’s demonized the women and men who work in our public schools. And he’s proposed a funding scheme that would steal from poor children to reward rich adults.”

Mr. Steinhauer has it backwards. Stealing from kids and enriching adults is what his and other teachers unions do. Quite well, I might add.

Hearts and minds?

And finally we have Chicago, a city where one in three never graduates from high school. The NEA does not have a presence there; the Chicago Teachers Union is affiliated with Randi Weingarten’s American Federation of Teachers. Nevertheless, it seems that CTU is all in with NEA’s “hearts and minds” modus operandi.

First a few facts: The median salary for a teacher in the Windy City is $78,169. When you throw in another $27,564 for various benefits, the total becomes almost $106K per annum. In retirement, the average teacher receives a hefty $50,000 a year. Ah, but the teachers are not happy. Chicago teachers are supposed to contribute 9 percent of their salary to fund their own pension. But, as things stand now, the teachers only contribute 2 percent, with the school district (taxpayer) picking up the remaining seven. The city, which is in dire fiscal straits, is asking teachers to pay the full 9 percent.

The audacity of the city fathers! The union is fighting mad and in heavy strike-prep mode, holding workshops which center on “workplace tactics to stick it to the boss.” The teachers could strike as soon as mid-October.

Hearts and minds?

Nope. “Heartless and mindless” is much closer to the truth. Shameless and arrogant too.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.