The push from parents for school choice is only growing stronger. The state of Virginia is one of the states leading the way with a new bill was just introduced to the Virginia General Assembly that would allow for the funding of students instead of funding school systems.
Nick Freitas, a Virginia State Representative in District 30, introduced House Bill 293 in VA’s 2022 session. As Freitas explained in his announcement on Twitter, the bill he is sponsoring is “one of the most comprehensive education freedom bills that has ever been submitted to the Virginia General Assembly.” He then followed that up with, “HB 293 will fund students, not systems.”
Corey DeAngelis, National Director of Research for School Choice Now, also took to Twitter to announce the introduction of HB 293. In his tweet, DeAngelis noted that if this bill were to be passed, parents in Virginia would be able to take their education dollars and apply them to the “education provider of their choosing.” These would include private schools, charter schools, magnet schools, virtual schools, and even home schools. Parents could also use this funding in other ways to support their children’s learning like tutoring, instructional materials that would be necessary for homeschooling, and services for kids with special needs.
Freitas’ HB 293 bill, while calling for school choice for parents and students, is actually an amendment to the Code of Virginia adding in an article that is related to the state’s Education Savings Account Program. The purpose of this bill is to first create an education saving account for parents and students that would allow them to use these funds for their children’s schooling. As the bill reads, these funds would be used for “qualified expenses”, which the bill describes as:
“Qualified expense” means one or more of the following expenses for the benefit of an eligible student: (i) tuition and fees at a private elementary or secondary school, including a school that provides online or virtual learning; (ii) textbooks required by a private elementary or secondary school; (iii) a licensed or accredited tutor; (iv) curriculum; (v) national norm-referenced examinations, Advanced Placement examinations or similar examinations, and any college admissions examinations; (vi) contributions of up to $2,000 annually to the eligible student’s qualified tuition program established pursuant to 26 U.S.C. § 530 or 11 U.S.C. § 529; (vii) educational services for children with disabilities from a licensed or accredited practitioner or provider; (viii) tuition and fees at an eligible postsecondary institution; (ix) textbooks required by an eligible postsecondary institution; and (x) fees for account management by private financial management firms approved by the Department.“
While some have called out what they see under part (vi) talking about “$2,000 annually” as the total amount a family would receive (public schools take as much as $20 – $30,000 per student in taxes from parents), further in the bill, clarifies what a family would receive. There is no total amount given, but the bill does specify how the total is determined. It reads:
“C. Each account shall be funded in an annual amount equal to the annual amount that the local school division of residence would have received to serve and educate the eligible student from all sources, including federal, state, and local sources. Each eligible student shall be counted in the average daily membership of his local school division of residence for the purpose of calculating state aid to the local school division of residence. Account funds shall be subtracted from the state aid payable to the student’s local school division of residence.“
Freitas’ push in Virginia is not the only one seen lately across the country. In his final State of the State Address, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey spoke for nearly ten minutes, addressing the subject of school choice and stating he will do it “any way possible” to expand the parent’s right of school choice for their children. He also said via Fronteras during his at times fiery address that in “This session, let’s expand school choice any way we can — greater open enrollment, new transportation models, more charter schools and more educational freedom for families, especially those in failing schools or who can’t afford to pick up and move to a new neighborhood.”
Ducey, like Freitas, is all in favor of allowing parents to take their public-school tax money with them so they can choose and fund where their children go to school. He pointed out the failing public school systems the country is dealing with. He also is pushing, in order to hold public schools more accountable, that all curriculum and academic materials be posted online so parents, guardians, and any other citizens who are interested can see and review the material being taught in school.
Freitas, during his announcement of HB 293, warned it was going to be a slow process to get the support needed to push the bill through. “It is going to be a long process over the next 60 days. But we are committed to ensuring that parents and kids get GENUINE options and real choices!” he revealed in a Tweet. You can read the entire Virginia HB 293 here.