Written by Don Byrd

A troubling proposal is surfacing as Congress begins work on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is must-pass legislation funding our military. Some members of Congress have suggested attaching the controversial Military Education Savings Act to that legislation, a proposal that would allow active-duty military personnel to send their children to private schools, including to religious schools, using taxpayer funds. 

For several reasons, we should make our voices heard in Washington against this idea.

First, using government funds to support religious education undermines religious liberty by forcing taxpayers to subsidize religion and by tying the hands of religious institutions with government regulations. The Baptist Joint Committee and other advocates have long opposed school voucher programs because they are a bad idea for religious liberty and education.

Second, school voucher programs are notoriously unpopular and are regularly defeated at the polls when the public has a chance to vote. In response to the Military Education Savings Act, groups — including those representing military personnel and military families — have lined up to announce their opposition, calling it a “bad deal for military families and a disaster for public schools across the country.” If Congress wants to institute a sweeping school voucher system for military families that would impact school districts across the country, they should debate and vote transparently on such an idea, and let the public be heard, not sneak it onto the NDAA.

Lastly, this program would subsidize school vouchers by diverting funds from a popular and highly successful program called “Impact Aid.” In a letter to congressional leaders, the Military Coalition explains their strong opposition to the proposed change:

Impact Aid is a vital revenue source for many of the schools serving military families, helping to offset lost property tax revenue when a district includes nontaxable federal land such as a military installation. Using Impact Aid dollars to fund Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) for military-connected students would be financially devastating for many school districts, critically compromising the quality of the education they could provide to military children and their civilian classmates.

School vouchers use taxpayer funds to support religious institutions that should support themselves without government intervention. Call your Representative and Senator and let them know that, as an advocate for religious liberty for all people, you are against the creation of a new federally funded school voucher program.