Monday, February 23, 2015

VSBA ACTION ALERT - Contact your Senators on HB2238

This morning, House Bill 2238 was reported from the Senate Finance Committee with a reenactment clause. This legislation, sponsored by Delegate LaRock, would allow parents of students with disabilities, some of whom may never have been enrolled in public schools, to receive 90% of the state SOQ per pupil funding which would be placed in a Parental Choice Education Savings Account. Those state funds could then be used by the parent to send the student to private school, for homeschooling, or to pay for certain other services for the child. There is no requirement that this state money be used to provide special education services for these children.

In HB2238, the parent signs a waiver that releases the local school division of all obligations to educate the student. Under IDEA and Section 504, the school division cannot be released from its obligation to provide a free and appropriate education. Regardless of a parent signing a waiver, local school divisions are ultimately responsible for the education of a child under federal law. Courts have held that this responsibility cannot be waived.
  • The bill also places a major administrative burden on local school divisions to collect, verify and audit receipts and invoices, submitted by the parent. School divisions are not provided and funds to perform these functions. Consequently, already limited funding will have to be used to perform these functions, which have nothing to do with the education of our students.
  • HB2238 only requires that the child has been identified as having a disability and is receiving or is eligible to receive special education services and has attended a public school for half of the school year. At that point, the parents may remove the child and apply for the funds regardless whether the child was receiving an appropriate education from the local school division. Currently, § 22.1-214 outlines a process by which a parent can dispute a program placement. If the school division is found to not have provided an appropriate education under current law, the local school division may be required to send the child to a private school to fulfill the IEP. 
  • While private school students, who are not receiving the Educational Improvement Scholarship Tax Credit cannot apply for the funds, homeschool students or students who claim religious exemption can apply by simply enrolling in a public school for half of the school year. 
  • Removing a few students from a local school division does not necessarily reduce overall operating costs, including the need for teachers, buses or other infrastructure. It simply raises the per pupil costs. 
HB2238 will be on the floor for a final vote on Wednesday. We ask that you please contact your Senator and urge them to vote NO on HB2238. You can find the contact information for your Senator here.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent action alert.