House Considers ‘Parental Choice’ Bill

richmondbeatsqaureBy Sarah Drury
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – On split votes, two House committees have approved a bill that would give state funds to parents of certain students so they could educate their children at home or in a private school.

House Bill 2238, which now will be considered by the full House, would allow some parents to opt out of the public school system and, in return, get 90 percent of the state’s portion of the per-pupil expenditure. Only particular students, such as children with disabilities, foster children and children of active duty military, would qualify.

Supporters say the legislation, introduced by Del. Dave LaRock of Hamilton and 20 other Republicans, would promote school and parental choice. Opponents say it would rob the public schools of money they need.

Last Monday, the House Education Committee voted 12-10 in favor of the measure, which would allow parents of qualified students who had been attending public school to open a Parental Choice Education Savings Account. The local school district then would deposit funds into the account; the parents could spend the money on private school tuition, tutoring services, textbooks, an online learning program or other specified expenses.

Because the bill involves money, the House Appropriations Committee then looked at it. On Friday, the Appropriations Committee voted 16-4 for the legislation.

The Virginia Education Coalition, an alliance of conservative activists and organizations, supports the bill.

“Essentially, today it costs $11,200 in Virginia to educate a student, which is paid for by taxpayers,” said Kris Allen, the coalition’s president. “Under this model, it will save the taxpayers about 25 percent” – by relieving public schools of having to serve specific children.

Groups such as the Virginia School Board Association and the Virginia Education Association, which represents the state’s teachers, oppose HB 2238. They say it’s nothing more than an education voucher program – a way of giving parents public monies that will be used to fund private schools.

“We do not need to be creating a new entitlement in Virginia when we cannot afford to fund existing obligations such as public education,” the VEA says on its website.

Under HB 2239, the Parental Choice Education Savings Account could be put toward private education, home instruction, educational therapies, college entrance examination fees or college tuition.

“The studies show that this has a positive impact, and that’s my story and I’m sticking to it,” Allen said.

The Virginia Department of Planning and Budget analyzed the bill and estimated it would cost about $400,000 a year to administer the Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts. If about 1,500 students participated in the program, that would offset the anticipated costs, the department said.


How They Voted

Here is how the House Education Committee voted on Feb. 2 on HB 2238 (“Virginia Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts; established”).

02/02/15 House: Reported from Education with substitute (12-Y 10-N)

YEAS – Landes, Lingamfelter, Cole, Pogge, Massie, Greason, Bell, Richard P., LeMunyon, Robinson, Farrell, Davis, Leftwich – 12.

NAYS – Rust, Yost, Yancey, McClellan, Tyler, Bulova, Keam, Hester, Preston, Lindsey – 10.

Here is how the House Appropriations Committee voted on the bill on Friday.

HB 2238 Virginia Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts; established.

02/06/15 House: Reported from Appropriations with substitute (16-Y 4-N)

YEAS – Jones, Ingram, Cox, Landes, O’Bannon, Lingamfelter, Poindexter, Massie, Scott, Peace, Greason, Anderson, Garrett, Stolle, Joannou, James – 16.

NAYS – Torian, Hester, Sickles, Carr – 4.

NOT VOTING – Knight, BaCote – 2.

© 2015, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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