The Chief of Staff of the Army said that a study he ordered assessing the performance of state-run schools outside Army posts could impact where Army families get stationed.
"I get governors and I get congressmen asking all the time what they can do for me, and I'm going to tell them what they can do for me. If they want to keep the military in their communities they better start paying attention to the schools that are outside and inside our installations. Because as we evaluate, as we make decisions on future force structure, that will be one of the criteria," Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army Chief of Staff, said at the Association of the United States Army conference late last month.
This is big news for military families with school-age children who prefer to live off post. Unless you can foot the bill for a private school or want to take up homeschooling, your kids' schooling is at the mercy of the Army's force structure decisions. Bad schools outside any given Army posts make no difference at all to where you get stationed.
But this study could mean that will someday change. As the Army looks to downsize with the possibility of another round of Base Realignment and Closures (BRAC) on the table, taking the time to gather the data on school performance means the Army is willing to take at least take the information into consideration as they decided where to stay and where to leave.
This is great news to people like Mary Keller, the head of the Military Child Education Coalition. That organization works with schools to better serve military kids, and offers resources like School Quest to help them find information about schools.“I think it’s very affirming that a senior leader with his influence is so caring and attuned that schools matter and it matters to the force,” she told me. “When the Chief of Staff of the Army says ‘I care about education,’ all of the sudden other people inside of the services are saying ‘this matters to the chief of staff so it should matter to us too.’”
Part of the reason a study like this one may be important to officials like Odierno is that they know that even though they are downsizing, retention remains an issue. Studies show that family happiness based on things like spouse employment opportunities and school availability for military kids has huge sway on whether or not a soldier stays Army. Simple logic says that if the Army chooses to keep large posts in areas with terrible schools, families are less likely to stick around and soldiers more likely to get out.
At least that's the theory. Would you be more likely to stay in the military if your service paid attention to the school options for your kids? Take our poll and check out the results below.