Virginia Religious Exemption in the News

Virginia homeschooling has been in the news these past several days with an equal funding pitch for homeschools and public schools via a state constitutional amendment. This huge proposition came from the Republican Lt. Governor’s candidate – E.W. Jackson.

In response to a 1070 WINA interview with the Republican state candidate – the Washington Post reviewed Jackson’s objectives.

E.W. Jackson would push constitutional amendment to help home schoolers By Errin Whack

Republican lieutenant gubernatorial candidate E.W. Jackson says that if elected, he would push for a constitutional amendment supporting equal resources for home schoolers.

The Chesapeake minister made his remarks Thursday on radio station WINA during “The Schilling Show.” Jackson was asked about how to “break down” the “barrier” between government schools and home schools.

“It’s going to take a constitutional amendment,” Jackson said. “I promise people I will work for that. We’ve got to make sure that a home-schooling family is like any other family that decides to send their children to a private school, a Christian school, whatever it is. That that home-schooling family gets the resources that would otherwise be spent in a government school.”

His opposition – Democrat Ralph Northam’s campaign, had this to offer in the WP article:

Asked about Jackson’s home-schooling proposal, Northam spokesman Grant Herring called it “another example of E.W. Jackson trying to impose his dangerous agenda on to the Commonwealth.”

“Jackson’s proposed Constitutional mandate would make drastic cuts to already underfunded schools while Ralph Northam is committed to Virginia’s parents, students, and teachers,” Herring said in a statement.

The Virginia Education Association [VEA] also laid out their opinions in the Fredericksburg Patch.

Democrats: Jackson’s Home-School Proposal Would Cost $100 Million By William Callahan

“At a time when Virginia’s public education system is barely getting by with low levels of funding, E.W. Jackson would even make deeper cuts,” Gruber [VEA President] said. “Virginia’s teachers, parents and students can’t afford this.”

A constitutional amendment would be necessary because Virginia’s current constitution prohibits public dollars funding private education.

The $100 million price tag could grow if private school students were to be included in the amendment, although there would likely be an attempt to add them, said Sen. Mamie Locke (D-Newport News).

VEA’s headquarter base in DC – the National Education Association – presents this in their 2012-2013 Resolution, stating “all [education] expenses [should be] borne by the parents/guardians.”  The teacher unions are not at all keen on home education. The NEA also “believes that home schooling programs based on parental choice cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience.

The Washington Post‘s Errin Whack also wrote a follow-up article on the various parties’ interest.

Va. teachers union blasts Jackson proposal for home schoolers as $100M tax hike

Asked about whether she believed there should be any financial consideration for parents who choose to home school their children, Gruber said those parents “are accepting the responsibility of making that choice.”
“Parents who make that decision do not want to participate in our public schools and therefore are accepting the responsibility, not only of educating their child, but the monetary cost that goes into that,” she said.

Private schools funded with public monies.  Taking a huge bite from a big apple. Many families keeping their children educated outside of the public schools are making that decision because it’s the best choice for their child’s unique learning needs.  A major strength being outside of government accountability limitations and the bureaucratic demands.

Some Virginia homeschoolers, such as The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers [VA-Homeschoolers] – are lobbying to participate in public school extra-curricular activities, as laid out by Ms. Whack.

Virginia’s General Assembly has debated issues surrounding home schoolers in recent years, including high-profile legislation named for New England Patriots quarterback Tim Tebow that would have allowed home schoolers to play sports at their local high schools. The bill has stalled in recent sessions..

At the same time, VA-Homeschoolers’ annual survey shows their members to be divided on a specific education tax credit and remain neutral on that particular notion.  The Home Educators Association of Virginia’s lobbyist seem intrigued by Jackson’s proposal calling for equal education funding.  From the Washington Post article:

“Yvonne Bunn, lobbyist for the Home Educators Association of Virginia, said the group — the largest in the state representing home schoolers — has not yet had an opportunity to talk to Jackson about his proposal, but is interested.
“I do know that home schoolers are taxpayers, and they pay property taxes for public schools,” Bunn said, adding she could not say whether the group will support his proposal until they have discussed the details with Jackson.

“Their children don’t get the benefits of that. So we would be very interested in seeing some type of tax credit … for parents who choose to home school,” Bunn said. “That doesn’t impact public schools in quite the same way.”

HEAV supported tax credit bills in the past.

The Virginian Pilot reports on more of Democrat state Senator Locke’s concerns with the Lt. Governor candidate:

On today’s conference call, state Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, called the proposal from Jackson “very troubling.”

“Our public education system is the crown jewel of our commonwealth, and such a radical proposal would certainly serve to undermine it,” Locke said. “Jackson’s views on education are so far outside the mainstream that voters need to stop and take a look.”

Jackson’s wife is a Newport News public school teacher.
Update: The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers released a related article: Bigger than Campaign Promises: Homeschooling, Tax Credits, and Politics in Virginia

More here: Refusing the Carrot – The Tax Credit Issue

Cross posted at Home Education Magazine News & Commentary

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