Cover: Options for Educating Students Attending Department of Defense Schools in the United States

Options for Educating Students Attending Department of Defense Schools in the United States

Published Sep 13, 2016

by Charles A. Goldman, Rita T. Karam, Beth Katz, Tiffany Berglund, Leslie Mullins, John D. Winkler

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Research Questions

  1. What are feasible options for educating military-connected children at the 15 installations in the continental United States where the Department of Defense Education Activity currently operates schools or contracts with local educational agencies to do so?
  2. Which options are feasible at each installation?
  3. How does each option perform in terms of expected school quality, costs, and implementation considerations?
  4. What are the construction and implementation implications for each feasible option?

The U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) currently operates or contracts with local educational agencies to operate schools on 15 contiguous United States (CONUS) military installations. DoDEA sponsored the project reported here to research and evaluate the options for educating military-connected children on these 15 installations. This report identifies the set of feasible options for educating military-connected children at these installations and determines which options are feasible at each installation. It evaluates the feasible options in terms of expected school quality, costs, and implementation considerations. It also specifies the construction and implementation implications for each feasible option.

Key Findings

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Has Six Feasible Options for Educating Military-Connected Children at the 15 Installations

  • It can preserve the status quo, transfer its responsibility to local educational agencies (LEAs), contract with LEAs, create coterminous school districts, establish charter schools, or contract with education management organizations.
  • The authors found that the feasibility of the six options varied in general and sometimes from installation to installation. Preserving the status quo is feasible at every installation. Contracting with an LEA also appears to be feasible at every installation. Transfer to an LEA is apparently feasible at most installations, with some potential obstacles at Hanscom and Dover Air Force Bases, which have historically been served by special arrangements, and the installations in Kentucky, which lacks a precedent for educating on-base students. The other options have significant limitations or concerns about either legality or implementation, at some or all installations.

DoD Education Activity (DoDEA)–Operated Schools Generally Perform Above Average, While LEAs That Might Educate Military-Connected Students Generally Perform Below Average

  • The schools operated by DoDEA generally perform above the national median on nationally normed standardized tests.
  • LEAs that might receive military-connected students under transfer or contract options exist mostly in states with below-average performance on national tests, and the specific LEAs tend to rank below average within these states.

Transferring Schools to LEAs Would Save DoD Money, but LEAs Would Need Increased Funding

  • Federal Impact Aid programs assist LEAs that educate federally connected students, such as military-connected students, because these LEAs cannot tax federal property to fund education. Although transferring schools to LEAs would save DoD money, LEAs would need increased funding from Impact Aid and other sources to fund the cost of educating the new students.

This research was sponsored by the Department of Defense Education Activity and conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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