However, the sacrifices that their families make are often equally as great. Spouses and children are not only separated from their loved ones for months on end, they also are forced to move from base to base around the country, and oftentimes the world. And this constant turmoil can put military children at risk of not receiving the quality education they deserve.
More than 25 percent of military households have school-age children. According to research by the United States Air Force, military children generally move six to nine times during their kindergarten through high school years.
All of this instability affects how kids learn. The same report found that deployments have adverse effects across most academic subjects, and a parent's lengthy deployment, especially during the month of standardized testing, has the "largest detrimental effects." Further evidence suggests that the adverse effects in academic achievement may persist for several years, until well after a typical service member has been discharged.
What's more, a 2005 survey of active duty military, conducted by the Defense Manpower Data Center, found that 94 percent of respondents agreed deployments increase the likelihood of problems at school and nearly one-third "strongly agreed."
Now, I don't highlight these findings to imply that military children will be less successful in life or to make their parents feel guilty. But these reports do shed light on the fact that children from military families are at a higher risk to fall behind in school. It is an issue that must be addressed.
So how do we make sure that the educational needs of our military kids are taken care of?
The Department of Defense and traditional public schools that most of these kids attend need to be the best they can be. That's a given.
But, like in civilian populations, there are some children that simply do not do well in the schools assigned to them. Yet more often than not, the same military families that make tremendous sacrifices for our country do not have the option to send their children to the public or private school that would best fit their children's needs. They should have that freedom.
Last year, Georgia lawmakers introduced a bill that would have granted opportunity scholarships to military families to send their kids to any public or private school in the state. Unfortunately, interest groups more determined to fight meaningful education reform than do what's best for kids were able to prevent the proposal from coming up for a vote. This year, lawmakers should not let adults play politics with the futures of military children again.
Governor-Elect Nathan Deal and the new slate of lawmakers under the Gold Dome in Atlanta should reintroduce the military opportunity scholarship in the upcoming legislative session as a "thank you" to military families for the sacrifices they have made for our country. Children of both veterans and active duty service members should be eligible.
The concept of parental choice in education is not new. The Georgia Special Needs Scholarship, which allows students with special needs to use a taxpayer-funded scholarship at the public or private school of their parents' choice, is beloved by parents and is positively changing the lives of thousands of students across the state. The same is true for the Georgia Tax Credit Scholarship Program. Nationally, nine states have embraced parental choice as an avenue to help students succeed.
This January, when the 2011 legislative session opens, let's show our support and gratitude to our military and their families by supporting an opportunity scholarship for military children. These families have given so much to us, it's the least we can do to say "thank you."
David Pusey is director of Georgia Family Council's Center for an Educated Georgia. Georgia Family Council is a nonprofit research and education organization committed to fostering conditions in which individuals, families and communities thrive. For more information, go to www.georgiafamily.org, 770-242-0001 or firstname.lastname@example.org.