Both are bills which siphon off funds from our public schools.
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Thank you for your service to our Commonwealth.
HB 8 will open Virginia to corporate virtual providers who do not have the welfare of Virginia students as their top priority. It sets up a virtual school board and a statewide virtual school. When established in other states, such schools have been plagued by low graduation rates, poor academic performance, and high dropout rates.
The September JLARC report on Efficiency and Effectiveness of K-12 Spending asserted that, “Because there is limited research on the effectiveness and cost of online learning programs in Virginia, the state should use a data-driven, incremental approach to expanding access to fully online programs.”
This is just what we are doing now. VDOE is piloting an online high school program. Virtual Virginia enrollment continues to grow, and many local school divisions, by virtue of individual and collective efforts, are expanding virtual offerings to students. This “incremental approach” is the right path to take. HB 8 is unnecessary.
Another major flaw with HB 8 is the funding mechanism. The bill calls for “the average state share of the Standards of Quality per pupil” plus federal funds to be sent to the virtual school by the Department of Education. This figure in not related to any assessment of the cost of providing a virtual program; it is based on the cost of providing the state share of support for a traditional “bricks-and-mortar” school.
Please veto HB 8.
I also request that you veto HB 389. This bill creates a new government entitlement, which siphons off funds now received by public schools, to create Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts that can be used to pay for education-related expenses. The manner in which the funds can be used is poorly defined. These funds, intended to fund public education, could be used for car payments and college tuition.
HB 389 requires no review of student progress, as is required by IDEA, and there are no due-process provisions for parents if progress is not being made, as is required by IDEA. The bill contains no accountability for the quality of instruction provided.
The inclusion of sectarian schools raises a serious constitutional question. TAG grants are used to argue that the bill is constitutional, but the courts have drawn a line between higher education and elementary and secondary education in this regard.
According to multiple studies analyzing assessment data from voucher programs, students offered vouchers do not perform better than their public school peers. Indeed, public school students have actually been found to outperform private school students when test scores are weighted to reflect socioeconomic level, race, and disability.
I urge you to veto HB 389.