A bill is advancing through the legislature that would provide desperately needed education choice to an at-risk segment of our school population and provide necessary relief for public schools. School choice is beneficial to everyone, and by passing HB 2238 we can give special needs children, foster kids, and children in military families the education tools and stability they need for success - while improving public schools AND saving the state money at the same time.
Right now, there’s a crisis of spiraling special education demands facing our public school system. According to the Virginia Department of Education’s annual report on the Commonwealth’s schools, …”the number of students most expensive to serve (autism and other health impairments) has skyrocketed by 23 percent to 46,865 students in just the last five years... The number one critical shortage area among teachers is Special Education.” This demand is putting growing strain on school budgets and staff.
The personal side of this issue cannot be ignored. Even though public schools are often doing the best they can with the resources they have, many special needs kids all over the state are struggling and falling behind as their unique needs are unmet. Parents are faced with the difficult choice between working things out with their school district (which sometimes involves costly litigation) or striking out on their own, with both options demanding great time and money.
Foster children and children from military families have unique needs, too, including (but not limited to) the need for stability. These families often turn to distance learning, private school or homeschooling simply to obtain some much-needed continuity in a constantly changing environment, but again, it can be expensive - sometimes prohibitively.
Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts (PCESAs) will start to change that. By creating a state-funded savings account for eligible children that opt out of public school, these children will be given the educational tools they need for success. The state will save money by retaining some of the money it would have spent on each child in public school, and districts will be left with higher per-pupil funding as their local district funding remains untouched.
But most importantly, PCESAs WORK. A survey of parents in Arizona, where PCESAs are already in effect, shows an astounding 100% satisfaction level, and study after study shows that the school choice PCESAs afford results in real academic benefits both the kids who leave public school AND the kids that stay behind.