The cash-strapped U.S. government could start saving $39,000 per student of military families by sending them to public schools — if only the proposal could get a vote.

That’s the argument from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who says he’s been stymied in his efforts to attach an amendment to a massive defense funding bill that would overhaul the way Washington finances education for children on military bases.

Currently, the Pentagon operates nearly 200 on-base schools around the world. Sixty-three of them are in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

According to Coburn’s office, the Pentagon is spending an average of $51,000 per student per year to attend the U.S. schools on military bases. That figure is sure to rise as the Defense Department endeavors to repair the glut of schools that are in deteriorating conditions, though the military estimates the per-pupil cost is far lower than Coburn’s figures show.

Coburn has proposed shutting down the U.S. schools, and sending students to nearby schools in the local communities to get their education. In exchange, his amendment would allow the defense secretary to send up to $12,000 per student every year to the schools that take those students — in turn saving the government $1 billion over five years, according to Coburn.

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