Recently, the General Assembly of Virginia passed HB1605 by the narrowest of margins (50-49). HB 1605 is a bill that would allow parents to apply for a one-year, renewal Parental Choice Education Savings Account, which is a type of voucher system. Parents could apply to get the funds that would be awarded to the public school in their child’s district and use those funds for “certain education-related expenses of the student, including tuition, deposits, fees, and required textbooks at a private sectarian, or nonsectarian elementary or secondary school or preschool … and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin.”
For those of us living in the Rockbridge area, this bill has some critical problems. Several of these are:
1. Diverting funds from our schools will be harmful. We are already struggling financially.
2. Voucher programs are not appropriate for rural and low income areas such as ours, as alternatives to public education are few and far between. The money available to individual families is too little to be useful.
3. Taxpayer money could be used to fund religious education.
4. These funds could be used for educational facilities (e.g., private schools) that are not subject to academic accountability.
5. While the bill does specifically address that schools receiving funds cannot discriminate based on race, color, or national origin, it does not say anything about schools that may have restrictions or discriminate based on gender, sexual orientation, special education needs, religious affiliation, or other characteristics. Title IX and IDEA requirements should be the same for any school receiving tax payer dollars.
6. The management of these funds will fall to local public school administrations, creating yet more work for increasingly understaffed central offices.
Governor McAuliffe vetoed a comparable bill last year. Please consider contacting him to ask him to veto HB 1605. You can contact his office in the following ways:
1. email his office using his webpage (https://governor.virginia.gov/constituent-services/communicating-with-the-governors-office)
2. call 804-786-2211
3. send a postcard or letter to:
Governor Terry McAuliffe
Common Ground for Virginia
P.O. Box 1475
Richmond, VA 23218