Letter: Community Advocates for Education

Editor: On Saturday, Leesburg residents had an opportunity to meet with Del. Randy Minchew and Sen. Jennifer Wexton in a Town Hall meeting at Rust Library. Members of Community Advocates for Education joined our neighbors in expressing concerns about the Parental Choice Education Savings Account bill that has been introduced again by Del. David LaRock and supported by Del. Minchew. I was glad that Del. Minchew reaffirmed a commitment to strong public schools, but also concerned that he insists on a blanket support of “school choice.” We may not be able to afford both.

Vouchers (and their cousins, Education Savings Accounts) will drain money from the public school system, increase segregation in school populations, and risk setting off a chain reaction of white flight and underfunding.

Indiana’s voucher system has cost taxpayers $130 million over the past five years, and the state’s education budget is now in deficit.  Pennsylvania and New York are also facing education funding deficits after implementing voucher programs.

Dels. Minchew and LaRock’s bill (HB1605) would allow students of any income level to “opt out” of public schools and receive roughly $2,500-3,600 annually for expense accounts to offset the costs of homeschooling or private school tuition. With an initial price tag of $380K ($330K in subsequent years), our local school district would not only lose state funding, but would also bear all of the administrative cost and burden for this program.

With an average cost of $10K/year for private schools in Virginia (one local private school charges $25K/year) the state-funded expense account would not even come close to covering private school tuition for lower-income families. However, it’s a nice “coupon” for affluent families who can already afford, or almost afford, private school tuition. If the universal voucher program in Nevada is an example, higher income families in better neighborhoods will apply disproportionately for PCESAs. Because race and socioeconomic status are linked, the program, if widely implemented, could lead to the concentration of poor and minority students in public schools, a form of de facto segregation.

When economically advantaged families opt out of public schools, it’s not just the funds that schools lose. We also lose parent volunteers and PTA dollars, further weakening our schools and prompting even more students to leave.

We should be wary of the nationwide PR campaign by choice advocates. Although it sounds like a good thing, and innovative freedom of choice is marketed as the answer to all of the challenges facing education of our young people, decades of study have shown that charter schools, vouchers systems, and online schools do not save tax dollars, and they do not result in better academic outcomes than public schools. However, they do weaken the public school systems and result in increased segregation by race, income and religion.

A strong public school system, like good roads, hospitals, fire departments and capable law enforcement, benefits our community and our economy in many ways. Although charter and private schools, like public schools, can be successful and serve our students well, we must be careful not to place too much faith in the hype surrounding the school choice marketing campaign. It’s an experiment that could prove very costly, not only to the taxpayer but also to our children’s education.

Paula Callaghan, Sharon Hamilton, Jack Lechelt, Linda McCray, Sara Montelone, Nicole Reid, Sherry Wetherill, Community Advocates for Education, Steering Committee

14 thoughts on “Letter: Community Advocates for Education

  • 2017-02-14 at 9:40 am
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    CareerSwitcher you continue to push people into the most expensive, least effective school system–the public schools. Well, 10,000 non-public school students in Loudoun disagree, as do 7.5M across the U.S., as do their parents. The never-ending carping for more funding for public schools has gotten very old and people who have seen the ineffectiveness have thrown in the towel. The tide is (finally!) on my side. President Trump and DeVos are going to shake up education in America in a very real way. Get your bucket ready. Those tears will need somewhere to go.

  • 2017-02-10 at 6:58 pm
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    “As I have critized you before, you only want to stop paying for public education because you have already had yours. You took from the system and now you have to pay it back”

    So, CareerSwitcher, you proposed that since I received a public school education decades ago that now I should pay taxes and pay it back. OK. Now, will you exempt all my children from paying the taxes when they are older because they took nothing from the system?

    • 2017-02-13 at 7:35 pm
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      Sure David – they can be exempt from paying taxes as long as they move away from the US where the decision to fund public education was made a century ago. Have them find their own island, perhaps. Or, maybe we let them live here but they cannot take advantage of anything that came from public education such as doctors, nurses, police, fire and EMS, construction workers, librarians, scientists, IT folks, musicians and artists, professional athletes, etc. See, you do benefit from the results of public education. Your choice to send your kids to a private school is the same choice you made when you bought your big home with the high HOA fees. If you remember, you recently wanted us all to pay for those fees. It seems that the only way you will be happy is if you get to stop paying for all that you and your family takes.

  • 2017-02-10 at 4:59 pm
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    You don’t get off that easy CareerSwitcher — try answering the question: Where do you think the vast majority of funding for our school system comes from?
    Nobody said anything about a “lifetime.” Try 5 to 7 years of paying taxes in Loudoun and suddenly, we’re talking about a nice chunk of change, with around 80 percent of it finding it’s way to the school system.
    Do you live and pay property taxes on a residence in Loudoun County CareerSwitcher?

  • 2017-02-10 at 4:04 pm
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    If you want to see my math, CareerSwitcher, here it is:

    Property taxes = $8,000/year. LCPS takes 70% of the County’s budget. 8000*70%= $5,400/year. That is a $450/month payment to LCPS. I pay over $10k to LCPS every other year. $54k in the past decade, etc. etc.

    • 2017-02-10 at 4:59 pm
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      $8,000 means that your house is worth way more than most – about $800k? How close am I? A $500k house pays about $5,000 a year. Your choice to live in a McMansion is your choice, not mine. and, we all pay every year. As I have critized you before, you only want to stop paying for public education because you have already had yours. You took from the system and now you have to pay it back

  • 2017-02-10 at 2:48 pm
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    CareerSwitcher,

    From where, exactly, do you believe the school system garners the vast majority of it’s funding?

    Do you think the county goes person by person — see’s Mr. D’s name and says “Ah! this guy… his tax money goes to the electric bill at Harrison street, or for gas in the hundred-plus county cars driving aimlessly around the county, but not one dime to the school system!”

    Depending upon how long one has lived in Loudoun, ten of thousands of dollars into the school system is not only possible, it’s far more common than you believe. Indeed, there are plenty of individuals who pay in excess of that. Do you reside in Loudoun County CareerSwitcher? Because I’ve met plenty of county employees who don’t.
    Now, you’re attacking taxpaying Loudoun homeowners and questioning the amount of cash they fork over, and then erroneously trying pass off they don’t pay into the school system?
    Remarkable.

    • 2017-02-10 at 3:43 pm
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      oh!!! – you are talking over a lifetime? not a single year? Wow, that makes the statement even more useless. Everyone pays tens of thousands into taxes over a 70-90 year lifespan. And I thought he was just being arrogant and not silly.

      David wants to cut his own taxes by not paying for public schools because he has already received his educations (and that of his parents, relatives, and friends) – that is not how it works. You have to pay for your fair share especially after you have taken from the system. David takes without wanting to give back – and this is your hero, Chris?

  • 2017-02-10 at 2:09 pm
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    David – not sure if you are lying or stating alternative facts when you write”tens of thousands of dollars into a public school system” but there is no way you pay tens of thousands in property taxes to Loudoun schools. Unless your home is worth many millions, your property taxes are a few thousand, and that money goes to all country functions. Maybe if you stopped the exaggeration, you would be taken more seriously here and all the other places you post

  • 2017-02-10 at 2:07 pm
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    “Childless people pay taxes for public schools, so why should parents who withdraw their children from public schools be entitled to recoup this cost?”

    Because, unlike childless couples, these parents have very significant additional educational costs. How is it fair to force me to pay for someone else’s child to attend public school first and then, if I have more money, then I can pay for my own child? Further, I paid taxes to public schools before I had kids and I’m fine paying them after all the kids are gone. But, in the meantime, while I’m paying for their education myself, I deserve some sort of break. Personally, I prefer a property tax exemption. But I won’t argue against an education account. I’ll take something, anything that will level the gross disparity as I noted in my original post. I’m giving you an extra $1M to use for ESL, teachers salaries, turf fields, etc. and, in return, I get to pay you tens of thousands of dollars in property taxes for the privilege of making the donation!!! Where is the social justice in that?

    Second, the law states each child must receive an education and then states that parents must choose the method: 1) Home school (do it yourself); 2) Private school (pay someone to do it for you); or 3) Public school (let the government do it). However, whether you choose 1 or 2 you still have to pay for #3. What kind of choice is that? This is freedom in name only. It is coercion in actuality.

    SGP, “Giving poor kids an 80% discount on a Mercedes S class is useless to them if they can’t pay for the last 20%.” At first, yes. Give an 80% voucher and watch market forces go to work. Soon, prices for schools will adapt to the price of the voucher and those same kids won’t have to pay for anything.

  • 2017-02-10 at 12:00 pm
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    First of all, David, a strong public education system is a benefit to our society as a whole. It is not in place only to benefit the children who use it or their parents. Childless people pay taxes for public schools, so why should parents who withdraw their children from public schools be entitled to recoup this cost? Maybe we should pass a law that allows childless people to have a publicly funded Travel Savings Account to put toward the travel they they can already afford due to not having children at all?

    Secondly, Thank you Va-SGP for your support. I absolutely agree with you regarding distribution of immigrants equally in schools. As you well know, CAfE formed to fight for this very principle last year.

    Finally, I think we can all agree that there is room for improvement regarding the best placement for special education students. This bill, however, does absolutely nothing for them. Proponents of this bill pay lip service to helping special ed students, but the real motivation is to allow and incentivize the affluent to move their kids out of public schools, causing socio-economic segregation.

  • 2017-02-09 at 1:07 pm
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    Thank you for writing this letter! I commit to keeping my kids in LCPS as long as we live in Loudoun County!

  • 2017-02-09 at 11:52 am
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    Community Advocates for Education ?

    No, more like Community Advocates for a System.

    Your main complaint is that this will take money away from a system that takes money it doesn’t deserve from The People.

    Explain to me why I’m paying tens of thousands of dollars into a public school system I don’t use while simultaneously relieving the public school system of over a $1M (yes, $1M!) it would cost if I sent my kids to public schools over the course of their lifetimes.

    Frankly, you people make me sick. Regardless of what is best for kids, you line up to protect a system while pilfering the pocketbooks of parents who don’t want anything to do with your system and achieve higher results without your system.

    This bill is wonderful and long overdue. Governor 47 Proof will never sign it, but it is only a matter of a year until the Republican Wave overtakes Virginia too and we can get some justice for the longsuffering discrimination that we non-public schoolers bear year after year.

    • 2017-02-09 at 9:49 pm
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      David, I support vouchers that provide the full funding of the student (both local and state) to the parents to choose a school. I believe Pennsylvania has this model. Since special ed kids cost more, they receive more money, thus eliminating the problem of only public schools getting stuck with the SpecEd kids. In fact, the public schools in Pennsylvania complained that the charters were getting the full cost of the SpecEd kids they served ($40K/student). How ironic is that?!

      But I agree with CAFE on this one. Giving poor kids an 80% discount on a Mercedes S class is useless to them if they can’t pay for the last 20%. While it is true that the counties would save money as they wouldn’t have to provide local funding for the students taking advantage of this bill, it can ultimately create two systems.

      For the same reasons, I support both equal distribution of illegal immigrants in schools and in housing but not necessarily for the same reasons as CARE. You see, the elitists who voted for Hillary don’t allow illegals into their private parties or in their neighborhoods. They are insulated from the gang violence. If you put all the illegals next door to the Hillary’s and the Chamber of Commerce officials and let them deal with the consequences, then maybe that free labor and future liberal voters wouldn’t take precedence over their safety and own kids’ education. Only when everyone, especially elites, face the consequences of illegal immigration will it get fixed.

      Ultimately, the fear is that those who can remove their kids for a small discount will, and those citizens will vote to provide fewer and fewer funds to schools. At the very least, you must admit that the state funds provided for general education students (the stipends or district funding) should be less than FRL or SpecEd student funding, right?

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