Communities across the nation hosting military installations should take heed that their long-term economic well-being due to the local infusion of DOD funds could be at risk if your public schools are faltering, a new Dallas Morning News column warns.
Military members with school-age children are increasingly concerned with school quality around military installations, and poor quality is a major factor in their decision to continue serving. Military leaders are listening and taking action, and that could have serious implications for the economic health of local communities, according to the column.
Each year billions in DOD funds reach state economies through the operation of military installations and defense weapons contracts, and the Office of Economic Adjustment’s (OEA) most recent study on state-by-state DOD spending revealed that in just one year $407 billion reached all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The annual infusion of DOD funds among the top states is significant, according to the report.  Top recipients include: California, $49.0 billion; Virginia, $46.2 billion; Texas, $37.7 billion; Maryland, $21.1 billion; Florida, $19.2 billion; Washington, $15.2 billion; Connecticut, $15 billion; Georgia, $13.2 billion; Pennsylvania, $12.1 billion; Alabama, $10.9 billion.
The funds, particularly for military installations, support thousands of local jobs. In one powerful example, according to the report, the major military facilities in Texas infuse approximately $136.6 billion in annual economic activity and support 806,000 jobs.
DOD funding infusions into local communities could eventually be at risk if local schools falter, impacting the economic health of communities.
The Air Force’s top officer, Gen. David Goldfein, has been emphasizing this point to local leaders concerned about the viability of their bases, including at ADC’s National Summit earlier this summer, as On Base previously reported.
“As I visit installations, the No. 1 quality of life issue of airmen with children is access to good schools,” he told attendees. “They’ll say, ‘Hey, chief, you can deploy me, you can send me to tough locations, you can make me live in small rural communities … we’re in. But once you start affecting the quality of our children’s education, that’s when we’re going to make difficult decisions.'”
Goldfein said that “as we make future basing decisions … we’re going to start at some of those quality of life issues because of retention. Airmen are not going to stay in the United States Air Force if I’m moving them between school systems that are all over the map.”
He added that local investment in school quality around bases “are resources well-invested.”
The military service secretaries have also asked the nation’s governors to pay specific attention to school quality. They have expressed in a letter that “the quality of schools near bases” will be a key factor “when evaluating future basing or mission alternatives.”
The military’s message couldn’t be clearer: Fix ailing schools or potentially face an exodus of those dollars, the column concludes.
ADC photo by Will Noonan