E.W. Jackson, Virginia’s Republican lieutenant governor candidate, has upset Democrats and education officials with a proposed constitutional amendment they say would cost $100 million and be devastating to Virginia students, families and teachers.
In a radio interview last week, Jackson proposed a constitutional amendment requiring the state to give an amount of money to parents of home-schooled children equal to the amount the Commonwealth spends on each student in public school.
In a press call Tuesday, Virginia Education AssociationPresident Meg Gruber said the amendment would cost $100,000 and result in the firing of 1,700, calling the proposal “reckless” and “extremely disturbing.”
“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 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).
When asked if she thought home-schooled students deserved state funds, Gruber said that parents who choose to home-school their kids take on the responsibility and understand the financial burden.
“Home schooling in Virginia is a choice that parents have a right to make,” she said. “When you make that choice you’re also accepting the responsibility. 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.”
Chris Merola, Jackson’s campaign spokesman, said the amendment would “give choice back” to parents.
“Northam’s and Gruber’s belief that it is ok to abandon Virginia’s children when they don’t like the parents' choices is disappointing and the most hurtful to unprivileged children,” he said in a statement. “Deep down everyone knows parents not politicians should be choosing their children’s education. Parental Choice will save money in the long run, improve education and give a desperately needed opportunity to children in the poorest communities.”