Last week I argued that Virginia could promote school choice by making state “Direct Aid to Public Education” dollars follow school children regardless of what school they attended, in effect contributing a $4,500 contribution toward their private school, charter school or home schooling.
Chris Braunlich, with the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, reminds me that a strict reading of the so-called Blaine Amendment to the Virginia Constitution prohibits any appropriation of state funds “to any school or institution of learning not exclusively owned by the State or some political subdivision thereof.” That’s why previous efforts to promote school choice have focused on the tax code.
For now, he writes, the Education Improvement Scholarship tax credit remains the “best and only” education choice option in Virginia. While the program funded only 2,662 scholarships worth $7.6 million in 2015, as I had observed in my post, it is growing rapidly and is pre-authorized for $10 million in the first six months of this year. He writes:
One reason our program is so small is the relatively small size of our tax credit: 65 percent. If our tax credit were in line with other states, the number of students being helped would be significantly higher. For example, Florida’s 100 percent tax credit raises more than $357 million to aid more than 77,000 students whose cost of education is removed from the state budget. Pennsylvania’s two programs, with up to a 90 percent tax credit, provide scholarships worth $124 million to nearly 50,000 students. Arizona’s 100 percent tax credit in three different programs raises $92.5 million to offer a more choices to nearly 46,000 students. Georgia’s 100 percent tax credit raises $54 million to aid more than 13,000 students.
Unfortunately, rather than increase the value of the tax credit, says Braunlich, Governor Terry McAuliffe proposes reducing it.
Meanwhile, Del. Dave LaRock, R-Hamilton, has filed HB 1605 for the third year running. The bill provides for Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) to Virginia students, similar to programs that helped 6,000 students in Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Nevada.
Parents would apply to their school division for a renewable Parental Choice Education Savings Account for an amount tied to “a certain percentage” of the Standards of Quality. Parents could use the money for education-related expenses including tuition, deposits, fees, and required textbooks.
It sounds like a great idea…. assuming local school boards are willing to go along, which in many cases they won’t be, and assuming it doesn’t run afoul of the Blaine amendment, which it probably will. It also sounds like it’s a lot more complicated than would be necessary if Virginia repealed the Blaine amendment.
Just like the tax-credit scholarships, half a loaf may be better than none. But I’m more inclined to attack the problem directly by revising the state Constitution.There are currently 1 comments highlighted: 97676.