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Report: Trump Seeks $1 Billion School Choice Measure for Military Families

By Andrew Ujifusa — October 19, 2017 1 min read
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President Donald J. Trump’s administration may support a school choice measure for children from military families.

That’s according to Crooked, a news and opinion website run by several high-profile former staffers from President Barack Obama’s administration, among others. On Thursday, the site posted what it characterized as a Trump White House “wish list” for several policy areas.

Included on that list, which isn’t dated, is “1 billion dollars to create an education savings account for military families living on bases.” There’s also an item for “a state opt-in funding stream that allows states to enhance and supplement existing school choice programs, or create a new program.”

A White House spokesman didn’t provide any immediate comment about the document on Thursday.

The second item isn’t really new—it bears at least a rough similarity to the Trump administration’s proposal to expand school choice in its fiscal 2018 budget request. (Those proposals have been almost entirely ignored by Congress so far.)

But the first item, creating ESAs for those in the military, would be a new ask for the Trump White House.

The Heritage Foundation, which Trump spoke to on Tuesday, released a similar ESA plan for the military over the summer.

Education savings accounts don’t involve picking a particular charter or private school. Instead, they generally allow families to spend money on various materials and services related to their children’s schooling, from tuition and tutoring to textbooks.

The $1 billion request for military ESAs would be roughly four times the size of the Trump administration’s proposed $250 million program to expand private school choice in Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget blueprint.

Here’s one thing to keep in mind: The Heritage plan would be paid for using money that now goes to Impact Aid, which helps school districts make up for tax revenue lost because of a federal presence, such as a military base or Native American reservation. However, Impact Aid is popular in Congress, complicating the proposal’s legislative prospects. It’s not clear if the White House would also support using Impact Aid to pay for its program.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., introduced a bill earlier this year that would grant scholarships for private-school tuition to military families.