Friday, February 4, 2011

Act Now to Stop HB2314

The House will debate Delegate Massie’s HB2314, a private school voucher bill, on Monday. The final vote should be on Tuesday. Please click on “Take Action!” to send your delegate a message urging the defeat of HB2314.

This bill will create a new entitlement, the state provision of funds for private school tuitions. Although the bill claims to benefit only poor children, it is a foot in the door. The bill is modeled on Florida’s voucher program. Newsweek reported on January 24, 2011, that, “Gov. Rick Scott is the first [Governor] to propose making vouchers available to all students, not just those in low-income areas.”

The bill will drain the General Fund of up to $25 million dollars by providing a 70% tax credit to corporations contributing to private school voucher foundations. Public schools would lose the state funding for the children who receive the vouchers.

This bill is being proposed at a time when we have seen Virginia’s state per-pupil funding fall from a 2009 level of $5,274 to the 2012 level of $4,519 proposed by the Governor on December 17th.

This bill will deplete the General Fund, which presently does not adequately fund core services, including education, for the purpose of offering a financial incentive to abandon our public schools. The $25 million could be better used to begin repairing the damage done to our schools by the funding cuts of the last three years.

This bill will provide a greater incentive (70% credit) to corporations to contribute to private schools than is provided for contributions to public school foundations, which are considered a charitable donation and not eligible for a tax credit.

The worth of the vouchers will vary by locality. The range is from $1,300 to $6,700. This amount is not sufficient to provide for the tuition of a poor child to attend a private school of high quality. The qualifying family of four, earning $40,793, could certainly not bridge the gap to pay the tuition of a high quality private school, many of which approach or exceed $20,000.

No accountability provisions for the academic performance of the schools which will benefit from the state’s support are included in the bill. Should not schools benefiting from state funding, even if it is indirect, be held to the same SOL accountability system as our public schools?