Del. David LaRock Comments on Education Savings Account Bill

In reply to the claims made by the gentleman from Fairfax,

False Claim #1- ESA’s Lack Academic Accountability

ESA’s have the Same level of accountability as the law requires for public, private, home schooling. To demand accountability beyond that is clearly a double standard and is unfair.

If that false claim of lacking accountability means kids being educated under and ESA program do not take the prescribed number of SOLs, then that is correct.

But education ultimately is about achieving results.

Let me read some statements from parents that prove Public Schools don’t work for everyone,

“He was treated well but was never challenged enough because there were all types of disabilities…that had to be met. Not enough one-on-one time.”

“The school she attended did not provide any OT (Occupational Therapy) services. There were also issues with her [being] teased and ridiculed in regard to her disability.”

“I was extremely dissatisfied. The communication and follow-through with staff was non-existent and the bullying was out of control. My son was so unhappy.”

This doesn’t mean schools aren’t trying or that they are failing everyone. It only means that in some cases… needs are not met. ESA’s will help close this gap.

At the end of the day the best measure of accountability is results.

To that point studies have shown school choice does result in academic improvement both for the students who participate and in the public schools in areas where school choice is allowed.

Twelve empirical studies have examined academic outcomes for school choice participants using random assignment, the “gold standard” of social science. Of these, 11 find that choice improves student outcomes—six that all students benefit and five that some benefit and some are not affected. One study finds no visible impact. No empirical study has found a negative impact.

False Claim #2 ESA’s Lacks Financial Accountability

Just like with the false claim regarding constitutionality you only need to just read the bill

o Parents must submit expenditure receipts quarterly to the school division, prior to receiving funds for the next quarter.

o Account expenditures will be subject to audit, and improper use of funds will be subject to fines, penalties, and / or prosecution.

o The Auditor of Public Accounts shall 204 – 208

  • Parent makes a knowing misrepresentation L 209 – 214
  • Policies and procedures for audit L 196
  • No Refunds or rebates L 186 – 189
  • Invalid expenditure L 217 – 219
  • The Dept. shall disburse retained earnings for the following purposes L160 – 165
  • Dept. shall establish policies and procedures for application…expensesummaries…L 197 – 203
    A huge portion of the bill targets the need for financial accountability

    False Claim #3 Local costs and responsibilities are too great

    Yes there is some administrative burden placed on local schools. It can be summed easily. Local school districts would accept and process applications and package and forward receipts. If necessary they could be asked to be part of an audit.

    In return they would be relieved of the burden of teaching and counselling a student or students. They would still receive some money for the child which would remain in that schools ADM count.

    It is important to note that many of the parents who participate in ESA’s have kids who by virtue of their disability or unique challenge cost astronomical amounts to educate. If they leave the public school, they leave a huge amount of money at the local level.

    Public schools will come out way ahead with ESA’s

False claim # 4, ESA’s result in inequity

A few months ago, Kevin P. Chavous, former chairman of the D.C. Council’s Education Committee, wrote an article in which he explained….

“Two of the most exciting days of my life were the day that I received my local library card and, years later, the day I received my NAACP card. I think the two are tied hand-in-hand….

Throughout my life, my parents instilled in our family the importance of learning – about yourself, the world around you and your culture. This positive influence helped me to succeed.

This is one of the many reasons why I am extremely disappointed in the NAACP’s decision to consider a moratorium on charter schools. The organization’s resistance to educational choice and giving every family in our country educational options hurts the learning culture that is necessary for our nation and our people to thrive and succeed.

I’ll be frank, our nation’s education system is one of the last remaining Jim Crow laws in our country….

School choice and charter schools are a lifeline to millions of African American families, providing hope, opportunity and success while the education system continues to fail minority students.”

ESA’s will help bring about equity in education.
False claim #5 the claim that of ESA’s Un-constitutionality

This is a flimsy objection and can be dispelled by just reading the plain text of our Virginia Constitution

Article 8. Education, Section 10. State appropriations prohibited to schools or institutions of learning not owned or exclusively controlled by the State or some subdivision thereof…

Parents are not schools or institutions.

ESA’s allows money to flow to parents who make decisions to access a variety of options just as a person uses a SNAP card to choose what to buy.

SNAP cards have limits, ESA’s have limits.

Both involve contract agreements… we don’t tell SNAP card users they cannot spend their money at a market that may have some connection to a religious entity. Likewise, a parent choosing education options that best fit their child’s needs does not make a parent a school or an institution.

Opponents claim that the program is just another voucher program and is unconstitutional.

Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts are not vouchers and saying they are will never change the fact that they are entirely different.

An education voucher is a check written to a school or to a parent to reimburse for tuition to a non-public school.

An ESA is a parent-controlled account, governed by a contract with very specific terms.

They have some things in common but are very different.

With an ESA, the parent takes a lead role, educates the student, SOQ monies help fund all this. This is very different that a voucher.

The PCESA bill is modeled after Arizona’s very successful ESA program, enacted in 2011. Arizona, like Virginia, is a Blaine Amendment state which means part of our constitution reflects what Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas accurately describes as being. “rooted in religious bigotry”. Blaine language creates barriers to direct appropriations to schools with a religious purpose.

Subsequent to enactment, Arizona’s ESA law was challenged on three points:

(1) some savings account money may go to religious schools; (2) some ESA money may go to private or sectarian schools and

(3) the program imposed an unconstitutional condition on participants because parents had to agree to not enroll their child in public school as a condition of enrollment.

The suit was defended by the legal team at the Goldwater Institute, led by Clint Bolick. All three arguments failed.

o On January 2012, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Maria Del Mar Verdin ruled that education savings accounts did not violate the state constitution. Qouting judge Verdin, “The exercise of parental choice among education options makes the program constitutional,” Judge Del Mar Verdin wrote in her opinion.

o October 1, 2013.15 In a unanimous decision, Judge Jon W. Thompson wrote, “The specified object of the ESA is the beneficiary families, not private or sectarian schools. Parents can use the funds deposited in the empowerment account to customize an education that meets their children’s unique educational needs.”

• March 21, 2014: the Arizona Supreme Court refused the appeal, upholding the appellate court’s decision.

Yes Arizona is not Virginia so where does that leave us?

Prior to his recent appointment to the Arizona Supreme Court, Clint Bolick reviewed Virginia’s proposed PCESA legislation. He concluded Virginia’s PCESA legislation is defensible and the Goldwater Institute has committed to defend it, if the need should arise.

So even if choose to ignore the obvious reality that ESA’s are not vouchers,

You may want to review the United States Supreme Court 2002 opinion in the Zellman v Simmons-Harris where the Ohio voucher program was challenged as being a violation of the Establishment Clause. SCOTUS ruled that when a parent is making the choices of where a student is going to be schooled, money flowing to the parent or the school is an allowable reimbursement.

Breaking that down to its simplest terms to compare…

Voucher money goes from government to school, parents choose the school, SCOTUS has this deemed lawful.

ESA has a goes to parents, the parents are making the decisions, this is in no way a violation of Virginia law or the US Constitution

OBJECTION: School choice takes away funding and support from public schools

ANSWER 1: the PCESA’s funding strategy will result in a net savings both for the state and for local school districts, as local funding remains untouched and as the state only disburses 90% of the money it would spend if the child stayed in public school. A Goldwater Institute analysis of Arizona’s ESA program (which Virginia’s is designed to closely mirror) estimates that for every 5,000 children using savings accounts, the state saves $12.3 million.[1]

ANSWER 2: School choice improves public schools. Twenty-three empirical studies have examined school choice’s impact on academic outcomes in public schools. Of these, 22 find that choice improves public schools and one finds no visible impact. No empirical study has found that choice harms public schools. While Florida’s A+ Opportunity Scholarship Program was in place giving school choice to kids in low-performing schools, the low-performing schools facing competition from vouchers improved dramatically. [2]

EDUCATION

Poll shows ‘school choice’ gaining ground

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

We reject a one-size-fits-all approach to education and support a broad range of choices for parents and children at the state and local level,” the Republican Party platform declared last year.

“We found bipartisan support,” Frendewey says of the polling. “We found support among Democrats. Fifty-five percent of Democrats support the concept of school choice.

Self-identified Republicans overwhelmingly support school choice but the poll showed that number has jumped to 84 percent, and 67 percent of independents voiced support.

Frendewey says the Federation intentionally used a Democratic polling firm, Beck Research, to conduct the poll due to AFC’s advocacy for school choice.

“And I make that point,” he explains, “in the sense that we made sure we searched out a pollster that not only was experienced in education but couldn’t be accused of favoring school choice if you will.”

The results also show 75 percent of Latinos and 75 percent of Millennials support school choice, and 72 percent of African-Americans support school options for parents as well.

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The latest poll commissioned by American Federation for Children shows continued strong support for school choice.

The poll included an evaluation of support for education savings accounts, opportunity scholarships, and special needs scholarships as well.

AFC communication director Matt Frendewey says the results revealed strong support for educational options from 68 percent of 1,100 respondents.

The survey comes as the Trump administration is expected to push for school choice, setting up a fight with Democrats and teachers’ unions.

“We reject a one-size-fits-all approach to education and support a broad range of choices for parents and children at the state and local level,” the Republican Party platform declared last year.
“We found bipartisan support,” Frendewey says of the polling. “We found support among Democrats. Fifty-five percent of Democrats support the concept of school choice.

Self-identified Republicans overwhelmingly support school choice but the poll showed that number has jumped to 84 percent, and 67 percent of independents voiced support.

Frendewey says the Federation intentionally used a Democratic polling firm, Beck Research, to conduct the poll due to AFC’s advocacy for school choice.

The results also show 75 percent of Latinos and 75 percent of Millennials support school choice, and 72 percent of African-Americans support school options for parents as well.

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