Americans United and allies have been urging Congress not to sneak language creating a private school voucher program for military-connected students into an annual defense bill.
Inspired by the Heritage Foundation and emboldened by support from Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, U.S. Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) and U.S. Sens. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) have introduced legislation to create vouchers for military-connected students. Known as the "Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act," this legislation would use federal funding from the Impact Aid program to create Education Savings Accounts (ESAs)--a type of private school voucher--for students with military parents on active duty residing on military bases.
Impact Aid is a source of funding for school districts that have lost local tax revenue due to the presence of federal tax-exempt land, such as military installations, Native American reservations or national parks.
"School districts rely on this funding to provide education to military-connected students," wrote Elise Helgesen Aguilar, AU's federal legislative counsel, on AU's "Wall of Separation" blog. "Diverting Impact Aid dollars to private school vouchers would be especially detrimental."
Since the bill is unlikely to pass on its own, supporters are reportedly trying to add the program to the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is often used as a vehicle to sneak in policies that endanger religious freedom.
Groups representing military students and their families, including...