Parent Choice




Parental Choice in Education

Common Core

Longitudinal Data

Parent & Student Privacy Rights

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THE PROBLEM:  SAT Performance is  Flat, Costs are High



SAT scores are flat and education costs are large and growing. Over the past 40 years, inflation-adjusted investment in Virginia K-12 education has increased approximately 120%, but improvement in college readiness, as measured by Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores has remained flat (see Exhibit 1).[1] From 1994 to 2007, education spending per pupil in Virginia increased 28.6 percent, from $7,357 to $9,463 in constant 2006-2007 dollars.[2] In FY2011, Educational expenditure per pupil was $10,364[3]. The 2011 Virginia education budget was $14.937B and represented 38.5 percent of the Commonwealth’s annual budget.[4] Taken together, these facts suggest that spending more on education does not improve performance, and incurred costs are a significant portion of the overall budget.

[1] Coulson, A., “State Education Trends: Academic Performance and Spending over the Past 40 Years,” CATO Institute, Policy Analysis (March 18, 2014 | No. 746)

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[2] Lips, E., Watkins, S., and Fleming, J., “Does Spending More on Education Improve Academic Achievement?” The Heritage Foundation, Backgrounder No. 2179, September 8, 2008.


[3] Governing the States and Localities, “Education Spending Per Student, By State”

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[4] Virginia Department of Planning and Budget, 2011 Executive Budget Document

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THE SOLUTION: Virginia voters demand parental choice in education:

  • 42% of parents said they prefer a regular public school for their child. Approximately 90% of Virginia’s enrolled K-12 students attend regular public schools.
  • 35% of K-12 parents prefer like to send their child to a private school. In reality, approximately 9% of Virginia’s K-12 students attend private schools.
  • 9% of parents in the survey prefer to homeschool their child. According to VDOE data, fewer than 2% of the state’s children are homeschooled.
  • 10% of parents prefer to send their child to a charter school. As of 2010 – 2011 four charter schools were in operation in Virginia, serving approximately 348 students.
  • 64% of Democrats, 68% of Republicans, and 66% of Independents in Virginia favor scholarship tax credits.

[Source: DiPerna, “Virginia’s Opinion on K-12 Education and School Choice,” The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, November 2009, [ <]

School Choice critics’ concerns are unsupported by empirical evidence:

Fifty‐six studies[1] since 1998 have found that parental choice in education has positive impact on student academic outcomes, public school academic performance, cost reduction, racial de‐segregation, and promotion of civic values and practices.

[1] Forster, G., “A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence of School Choice,” The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, April 2013. [–The-Empirical-Evidence-on-School-Choice.pdf ]

The Solution: Provide Parents with Educational Choice

VEC recommends modification to the existing Virginia Education Improvement Scholarship Tax Credit regulations AND passing new legislation that will fund Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts.

Modify current Virginia Education Improvement Scholarship Tax Credit (EISTC) (2015):

  • Expand funding cap to $50M, with automatic increase provisions;
  • Expand value of Education Tax Credit to 70% minimum, with a more generous credit for multi-year contributions;
  • Focus on students with family incomes less than 185% of federal poverty guideline;
  • Expand cap as success is demonstrated, funds available;
  • Limit scholarship amounts to increase number of scholarships available and leverage private educational institutions’ matching grants-in-aid.

Pass Parental Choice Education Savings Account Legislation :

VEC supports implementation of a Virginia Parental Choice Education Savings Account (PCESA) program  modeled after Arizona’s successful Empowerment Savings Account (AESA) program, with features of similar programs recently passed in Tennessee and Nevada.

Parents must withdraw their child from the public education system and sign an annual agreement with the State to provide their child with an education in accordance with existing Virginia laws that govern private school or homeschool. In return, parents receive 90 percent of the State’s portion of the per pupil education funding allocated by the state to the local school district. This stipend is deposited by the state quarterly into a private savings account that can be accessed by the parent via a restricted-use, self-adjudicating debit card. The State reserves the right to audit accounts. Account expenditures are restricted to defined educational expenditures (see below). Annually, parents must submit expenditure receipts for the preceding year, agree to a random audit, and agree to continue in the program, prior to receiving funds for the subsequent year. In the event PCESA funds are found to have been spent on unapproved expenditures, the State can withhold subsequent year’s funds to rectify the misuse and / or take legal action against the parent.

Scope: PCESA eligibility includes:

  1. Children with special needs (any child with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or any child who is identified as disabled under the federally mandated Child Find process);
  2. Children in families whose household income is less than 300% of current federal poverty guidelines.

Products and Services: The following broad categories of allowable PCESA uses include:

·        Private School Tuition·        Education Therapy Services and Aides

·        Textbooks

·        Hardware, Software, Materials

·        Individual Public School Classes

·        Private Online Learning Courses

·        PCESA Management Fees

·        Coverdell College Savings Contribution

·        Advanced Placement Courses, Exams, Norm-          referenced   Achievement Tests·        Test fees

·        Tutoring

·        Curricula

·        College Tuition as part of a K12 curriculum

·         Textbooks

·        Student Transportation

ESA account holders may roll-over unused funds from year-to-year and / or apply unused funds to a Coverdell college tuition savings program. Funds not used by age 22 for allowable purposes are returned to the state.

Administration: The PCESA program administration will co-exist with and build upon the existing Virginia Education Improvement Scholarship Tax Credit (EISTC) program and use existing administrative mechanisms to the greatest practicable extent, thereby minimizing additional administrative cost to the state. Currently, Florida manages its Tuition Tax Credit Scholarship program and Personal Learning Scholarship Account through a non-profit, Step Up For Students. Virginia may or may not choose to adopt a similar model.

Costs / Savings. Because 90 percent of only the State’s portion of the per-student funding is used to fund the PCESA (no local or federal funding is included), per pupil funding generated by local taxes is untouched. Ten percent is saved by the State, which can be put toward fixed overhead costs, administration of the program, or other educational purposes.

Benefits: The PCESA program will provide true parental choice in education. A parent is free to choose a private school, private tutors, or create a hybrid schooling option that meets a student’s specific needs.

  • Parents manage their costs and are free to change providers.
  • Consumer choice places downward pressure on educational product and service provider prices, because they must compete for customers. This will contain the growth in education costs.
  • Parents can save monies that are not spent on K12 education and save them for future college expenses. This will mitigate the need for student loans, and put additional downward pressure on prices.

The greatest benefit is the ability to match educational options with their children’s unique learning needs.

[1] Forster, G., “A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence of School Choice,” The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, April 2013. [–The-Empirical-Evidence-on-School-Choice.pdf ]

[2] DiPerna, “Virginia’s Opinion on K-12 Education and School Choice,” The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, November 2009, [ ]

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