Virginia’s Private School Choice Program Under Threat

Nathan Brinkman | Choice Media

Virginia’s only private school choice program, Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits (EISTC), is under threat from an elected official. Delegate David L. Bulova (D-37) has authored a bill to abolish it.

More than 4,000 students with special needs or from low-income families currently benefit from Virginia’s EISTC. Since the program’s launch in 2012, the number of students receiving K-12 scholarships has climbed steadily every year.

Virginia EISTC Program Enrollment

Source: EdChoice

Orlando Suarez has three daughters who now attend Saint James, a National Blue Ribbon School in Falls Church, thanks to Virginia’s EISTC. His eldest daughter transferred from a public school where, he says, academic standards were notably lower. His two youngest daughters have attended Saint James since Kindergarten. “My daughters would be devastated if they had to leave Saint James,” Suarez told Choice Media. “But if this program is abolished, it would be impossible for us to afford tuition for all three girls.”

Following Delegate Bulova’s introduction of HB 521, the Virginia Catholic Conference (VCC) is sounding the alarm. “If we do not stop this bill, low-income students and students with disabilities will lose vital resources that give them options for their education,” VCC Executive Director Jeff Caruso told Choice Media. “These are children who are exactly where they need to be to learn and thrive, and they deserve to stay there. All Virginia families deserve to be able to choose the best educational opportunity for their child, not just those who can afford it.”

Delegate Bulova declined to answer Choice Media’s requests for comment on HB 521. On his website, however, the delegate boasts: “It has been an honor to be recognized multiple times by the Virginia Education Association with their ‘Solid as a Rock for Public Education Award.’”

Virginia public school achievement in both reading and math declined in the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Only 38 percent of Virginia’s fourth graders could read at a level deemed “proficient” for their grade level, a five point drop from 2017. Eighth graders in the Commonwealth did even worse, with only 33% meeting the standard, down four points.

Nathan Brinkman is the father of two school-aged kids. He lives in Arlington, Virginia. This article was first published at ChoiceMedia.TV, the nation’s “education homepage.”

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