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Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Agency
Department of Education
Guidance Document Change: The Guidelines for the Educational Scholarships Tax Credits Program have been revised to incorporate pre-kindergarden children and programs (Senate Bill 1015) and changes related to eligible students with a disability (Senate Bill 1365), which are effective July 1, 2019, as well as needed procedural changes and clarifications. The Virginia Department of Education will accept public comments on the draft guidelines May 13, 2019 through June 12, 2019. Please submit any comments to tax.credits@doe.virginia.gov.
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6/12/19  2:58 pm
Commenter: New Covenant Schools Foundation

Comments on the proposed Guideline for the Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credit Program
 

Please accept the following public comments in response to the proposed Guidelines for the Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits (EISTC) Program on behalf of New Covenant Schools Foundation.  As a Scholarship Foundation under the EISTC Program, we respectfully request your review and consideration of our requests for clarification and modifications to the guidelines.  Thank you in advance for your consideration.

First and foremost, on page 14 of the proposed EISTC guidelines, in the “Annual foundation report to the Department” section, we have expressed to the VDOE and continue to express significant privacy concerns regarding the new reporting requirements in regards to the K-12 scholarship children, specifically the new requirement in the proposed regulations that requires the name of each child receiving the scholarship be provided alongside all of their demographic and testing information.  Nowhere in the Code of Virginia does it state that schools or scholarship foundations must provide to the VDOE the names of the scholarship students.  We respectfully request that the VDOE continue to respect the privacy of scholarship students, and allow an alternate student identification name to be provided in lieu of their full name, in compliance with the statute.  We propose that each student who receives a scholarship be assigned a unique identifier by the scholarship foundation that consists of the first two letters of the student’s first name, first two letters of the student’s last name and the student’s date of birth- including the full month, full day and last two digits of their birth year. For example:

Student name: Kevin Smith

Date of Birth:  09/02/2005

Unique identifier name:  KESM-090205

This unique identification name which includes the student’s date of birth would provide even more clarity to the VDOE in administering the EISTC program. There may be children with the same name receiving scholarship funds at the same school.  Therefore, this unique identifier would eliminate confusion over children with the same name, especially those who happen to be in the same grade.  This unique identifier would still be subject to and protected under the Department’s “Protection of Sensitive Data” section of the proposed guidelines.  The unique identification name is a reasonable solution to the privacy concerns of the families and foundations, and complies with the reporting requirements under the Code of Virginia.  

On page 13 of the proposed EISTC guidelines, we request clarification to the first sentence in the second full paragraph which reads: “Each year, prior to awarding scholarships to students or eligible students with a disability to attend a nonpublic school, scholarship…(emphasis added)”  We request clarification for what “each year” means – whether that refers to “program year” or “school year” as already defined in the guidelines.  Additionally, we request clarification as to what is meant by “awarding” in said sentence. 

On page 14 of the proposed EISTC guidelines, in the first full paragraph, in the sentence: “Each year, prior to awarding scholarships to eligible pre-kindergarten children to attend a nonpublic pre-kindergarten program…(emphasis added)” please provide clarification regarding what “each year” is referring to – whether that refers to “program year” or “school year” as already defined in the guidelines.  Similarly, in the first sentence of the third full paragraph, “Each year, each scholarship foundation shall provide detailed information concerning qualified educational expenses scholarships… (emphasis added)”please clarify what “each year” is referring to – whether that refers “program year” or “school year” as already defined in the guidelines. 

On page 14 of the proposed EISTC guidelines, in the “Annual foundation report to the Department” section we have the following administrative request: In the preliminary foundation report due April 15, it would be more efficient for Scholarship Foundations to initially provide a list of scholarship recipients’ unique identification names and dates of birth, and not include the scholarship amount at said time.  The scholarship amounts are subject to change between April 15th and the final report due September 30th, causing significant duplication of work for the Scholarship Foundations.  This modification to the April 15th preliminary foundation report would still enable the schools to provide the required demographic data and test scores requested by VDOE. 

Also in regard to the Department sending the reporting template to the Foundation and the subsequent due date, New Covenant Schools Foundation is requesting that the Department provide timelines which are consistent in length for submission of all reports.  It appears that the timelines for submission of the Annual Foundation Report and the Student Achievement Report are not similar.  These reports are time-consuming and require diligence to complete.  Office staff should not be rushing through these documents to make a short timeline of a two-week submission.  It would be requested that all timelines between the date that the Department provides a preliminary report template and the date the preliminary reports are to be submitted would be at least one month.

On page 16 of the proposed guidelines, the second full paragraph states: “For schools that include scholarship recipients in grade 12, schools must submit the eligible student numerator and denominator totals needed for the FGI graduation rate calculation.” We ask clarification if this refers to the data required in the statute which in the applicable part states:  “Eligible schools shall annually provide to the Superintendent of Public Instruction graduation rates of its students participating in the scholarship program in a manner consistent with nationally recognized standards.” Also, clarification on what is meant by the “FGI graduation rate calculation” would be appreciated.

On page 16, the last sentence in the fourth full paragraph which reads: “The Department requires schools to report the composite national percentile ranks.”  Please provide clarification of what data this is requesting and how and where this information is required under the statute.

Thank you for your consideration of these matters.