Military families stationed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, have proposed their own K–8 charter school on base to meet the unique needs of their children.
The proposed charter school would serve up to 875 students, which is likely to fill quickly as the base expands to accommodate nearly 600 new families. But the proposal has been met with resistance from the local public school district.
Students from military families face many different life circumstances compared to their civilian-family peers. They transition to different schools when their parents are re-stationed—occasionally multiple times throughout their schooling careers—or face periods of time when a parent is deployed, sometimes in very dangerous territory.
Educational opportunity for military families means that military parents can choose schools that will support the needs of their children.
MacDill families, such as the Maddens, have been disappointed with the public school options for their children. Monroe Middle School, where most of the children on base currently attend, received a C grade from the state this year.
Retired Air Force Sergeant Greg Parmer and his wife Kimberly said the public school was a “culture shock” for their children who had previously attended Department of Defense schools in Germany and Japan. “We were worrying about their well-being, due to the frequent fights that were happening at the school,” Parmer said.
Amanda Madden, mother of two and wife of a technical sergeant, told redefinED that the proposed charter school would give her children a better sense of place and bring more continuity to their family’s lives:
Maybe if the base had its own charter school, there would be more options for parents reaching out for help, Madden said.
She also likes the idea of having a school that caters to her children’s special needs, like the DOD schools they attended on other bases. When their father was deployed to Afghanistan, those schools offered special programs and counseling for the kids, she said.
School choice puts educational decision making back in the hands of the parents, who know the needs of their children best. As those in the military pursue excellence in defending freedom for our nation, we should respect their freedom to choose the best education for their children.
Brandon Hershey is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.