WASHINGTON — Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee say they will explore a school voucher program for the military, responding to complaints from military families that PCS moves sometimes force their children into failing schools.

No formal proposals have been made, but at a military personnel hearing this week, several senators backed plans to research the issue of tuition vouchers which would allow families of servicemembers to choose which schools their children attend.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said he’d like to see a pilot program in the Washington, D.C. area, where a voucher system already exists.

The topic came as military spouses briefed the committee Wednesday about the problems facing troops’ families under current military rules.

While most of the issues centered around heavy deployment schedules and adjustments when servicemembers return home, Patricia Davis, wife of Air Force Chief Master Sgt. James Davis of the 316th Wing, said education is becoming more problematic with troops’ frequent moves.

"Increasingly, I’m seeing military families paying to send their kids to private schools, due to lack of quality education in the areas they’re assigned to, or they decided to home-school instead," she said. "Our kids’ education should not have to suffer because of military obligations."

Sheila Casey, wife of Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey Jr., said numerous military spouses have approached her about the issue, frustrated when they are transferred to an area with schools below their expectations.

The idea has been broached in the past, but then shelved because of questions about how to pay for it.

Senators on the panel acknowledged that finding a system to fund vouchers for more than 750,000 military children may prove too difficult to reconcile.

Kathy Moakler, director of government relations for the National Military Family Association, said those figures don’t take into account families stationed overseas.

She said financial details would need to be worked out before her group could back any voucher plan.

Schools with military bases in their districts are eligible for impact aid to help offset tax losses, but senators said that money is unlikely to provide a reliable funding stream for vouchers.

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