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  • Oct 16 2017

Surveying the Military

By Lindsey Burke, Paul DiPerna, Anne Ryland

In this report, authors Paul DiPerna, Lindsey Burke and Anne Ryland share the results of a 2017 survey of 1,200 active-duty military servicemembers, veterans, and their spouses to help policymakers and the public better understand this important constituency’s perspectives on K­–12 education, school choice policies and the military profession as a whole.

Click here to listen to the authors discuss their report, key findings and more.

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Breaking Down "Surveying the Military"


ADDITIONAL REPORT INFORMATION

In this report, you will learn:

  • 1

    The schooling options military parents are able to access now don’t match what they want for their children.

    Nearly equal shares of military-connected respondents said they prefer to send their children to regular public school (34%) or a private school (33%) as a first option for their child. One out of six respondents (17%) would select a public charter school. Smaller proportions would either choose to homeschool their child (6%) or enroll in a virtual school (4%). Those private preferences signal a stark disconnect with military families’ actual school enrollment patterns in the United States. About 80 percent of military-connected students attend public district schools across the country. It is estimated that just about 7 percent of the country’s active-military-connected students are homeschooled. How do response frequencies look if we only consider military-connected parents of school-aged children? The numbers barely shift for all school types. Compared to the overall sample, roughly the same proportions of parents would choose a regular public school (35%) and private school (33%). A significantly higher proportion preferred a public charter school (20%). The same response pattern holds up for those selecting home school (7%) and virtual school (4%).
  • 2

    Military parents are much more likely than the national average to take costly and inconvenient steps to secure and accommodate their children’s education.

    We asked military-connected parents what sacrifices they have made to secure and accommodate a suitable education for their children, and their reported activity levels consistently surpass what we observed of current and former school parents in our 2016 national survey of the general public. More than twice the number of military-connected parents (44%) report taking an additional job compared to the one out of five parents (21%) in the general public. Parents in military households (37%) also are much more likely to change jobs than American parents generally (14%). Military households (37%) are twice as likely (17%) to say they have moved to be closer to their child’s school than the national average. About one-third of military parents (32%) said they have taken out a new loan, which is again a substantially higher level of activity than what we observed among American parents previously (11%). Military parents are much more likely than the national average to say they have paid for transportation (37% vs. 15%, respectively). Military families (54%) are also much more likely than the national average (35%) to say they have paid for before- or after-care services. A majority (56%) of respondents said they have “significantly changed their routine,” which is 18 points higher than the national average.
  • 3

    Military parents are happy with their district schools’ communication and services, but are less likely to give them high marks for meeting needs that are specific to military families.

    We asked respondents to gauge the effectiveness and performance of their local public school districts when it comes to serving families and, in some cases, on some military family-specific subjects. Generally speaking, school districts fare well. There is a remarkably consistent pattern and gap that shows current school parents are more positive—by about 10 percentage points—than the overall average. School districts get the highest ratings for keeping parents informed about school activities, providing school counseling services, communicating with parents, and helping for a smooth transition to school. Districts get relatively lower ratings for those items that are more specific to the needs of military families, such as: awareness of military life; adhering to “Interstate Compact;” and using the “Military School Liaison.” Respondents were more likely to give “don’t know” responses to these items, which could explain some of the depressed frequencies. Nevertheless, parents are significantly more likely to be positive about school district communications and services.
  • 4

    When current military parents are informed of how school choice options work, their support for those programs increases dramatically.

    Military-connected respondents were almost five-times more likely to say they supported education savings accounts (ESAs) than opposed them after hearing a description (72% favor vs. 15% oppose). Nearly two out of three military households (64%) said they support school vouchers, compared with 27 percent who said they oppose such an educational choice system. Given a policy definition, a solid majority (63%) say they support tax-credit scholarships, whereas 23 percent say they oppose them. The subgroup of current school parents showed the strongest support for ESAs and vouchers once given a description of how the programs work. ESA support among current school parents grew from 61 percent to 78 percent, and voucher support grew from 54 percent to 67 percent. Notably, military families broadly support a hypothetical federal proposal to create ESAs for military-connected students. Nearly three out of four respondents (71%) said they support a federal “education savings account” program if proposed by Congress, and 15 percent said they would oppose such a plan. Policy support spans across all observed demographics. Margins are large in magnitude and positive.

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