Friday, February 26, 2016

If they can't get you one way ....

As we worked through the budget bills from the House (HB30) and Senate (SB30) we were pleased by the significant investment in public education.  The House provides a good bit more than the governor had proposed in the introduced budget, and the Senate just slightly less.  This won't bring us back to 2009 funding levels (factoring in inflation), but it is a significant step in the right direction.

But there are always some things hidden among in the phone-book like budget bills.  Often, and unfortunately, budgets do more than appropriate – they legislate.  I have heard members of both parties decry the practice, but both sides have been guilty of legislating in the budget.

HB30 includes a bill that we have been fighting all session, and which is yet to pass, HB389.  For those of you who have not been following closely this is the parental choice savings account bill, which funnels funds away from public schools for questionable educational purposes.

Interestingly, the budget also includes language for HB8, the virtual school bill, but the budget clearly states, “This funding is contingent on the passage of House Bill 8."  There is no such contingency language for HB389.

So, if HB389 passes, and the Governor chooses to veto the bill, he must also line item veto the budget provision, as well, to keep it from going into effect.

Below is the offending budget amendment:

Item 139 #15h


Direct Aid to Public Education Language


Page 144, after line 6, insert:

"40. Parental Choice Education Savings Account Payments

A.1. The Department of Education is directed to transfer ninety percent of the total of the state's share of the per pupil amount of Standards of Quality, sales tax per pupil funding amount and any applicable special education funding to a school division from which a parent of an eligible kindergarten through grade eleven special education student who has an individual education plan for the purpose of receiving special education services and has applied and been approved for a Parental Choice Education Savings account, pursuant to the passage of House Bill 389.

2. The resident school division shall deposit the received eligible state funds defined in this item, 40.A.1., into such Parental Choice Education Savings Account and such deposit shall be contingent on approval of any prior submissions of required receipts and invoices from such parents for the eligible education expenses for the qualified eligible student.

3. Parents receiving such state funds will be allowed to use the funds deposited in the

Parental Choice Savings Account solely for one or more of the following expenses on behalf of the qualified student: (i) tuition, fees, or required textbooks at a qualified school; (ii) educational therapies or services for the qualified student from a practitioner or provider, including paraprofessionals or educational aides; (iii) tutoring services; (iv) curriculum; (v) tuition or fees for a private online learning program; (vi) fees for a nationally standardized norm-referenced achievement test, an Advanced Placement examination, or any examination taken to gain admission to an institution of higher education; (vii) tuition fees or required textbooks at an eligible institution; (viii) fees for management of the Savings Account by firms selected by the Plan pursuant to subsection A of § 22.1-222.3; (ix) services that are offered on a fee-for-service basis by a public elementary or secondary school to the public, including classes and extracurricular activities; (x) such insurance or surety bond payments as may be required by the Virginia College Savings Plan Agency; or (xi) transportation, consumable educational supplies, or any other goods or services that are necessary for the provision of the qualified student's education pursuant to § 22.1-254, in exchange for solely educating the qualifying eligible student.

4. Each parent who expends any funds from a Parental Choice Savings Account shall submit all applicable receipts and invoices for such expenditures to the resident school division for review of appropriateness of each expense and possible audit. Each resident school division shall determine, based on the policies established by the Department of Education pursuant to subsection F of §, the appropriateness of the submitted receipts and invoices prior to considerations for a subsequent renewal request.

Amendments to House Bill 30, as Introduced


5. The Department of Education and the Virginia 529 College Savings Plan agencies shall be required to manage and audit each Parental Choice Education Savings Account that approved parents have established with an approved financial institution where accounts are maintained."


(This language amendment directs the resident school division to deposit the appropriate state's share of SOQ, sales tax and any applicable special education funding received from the Department of Education for a qualifying student into an approved and established Parental Choice Education Savings account. The amendment further direct the Department of Education and the Virginia College Savings Plan agencies to manage and audit such accounts.)