Public Comments for Proposed EISTC Guideline
Please accept the following public comments in response to the proposed Guidelines for the Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits (EISTC) Program on behalf of Elijah House Academy. 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.
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.
Also on page 16, there is overly broad and vague language contained within the “Reporting requirements for non-public pre-kindergarten programs” section. Specifically, we are concerned over the following sentence: “Information required for the Department to conduct studies comparing the academic performance of such children while attending primary or secondary school with other children attending primary or secondary school who have attended a pre-kindergarten program, including programs funded under the Virginia Preschool Initiative will be required.” Please provide clarification of what data this is requesting and where this information is required under the statute.
Lastly, on page 12 of the proposed guidelines, the second full paragraph states: “Written documentation of eligibility for a pre-kindergarten child maintained by the scholarship foundation must include certification from the child’s parent or guardian that the child was unable to obtain services through the Virginia Preschool Initiative in the public school division in which the child resides.” We propose that the following form language be used to satisfy the parental certification requirement for pre-kindergarten children. The form language may be provided by the school or Scholarship Foundation to the parent or guardian for completion.
Use this form to certify whether your pre-kindergarten child was able to obtain services through the Virginia Preschool Initiative in the public school division in which your child resides, as mandated by Section 58.1-439.25, Code of Virginia. Please complete this certification form and provide your completed form to the scholarship foundation. Completion of a parent or guardian certification is required for eligibility for pre-kindergarten scholarships as outlined in Section 58.1-439.25, Code of Virginia.
For additional information, please refer to Section 58.1-439.25, Code of Virginia, or contact your scholarship foundation.
Part I – Student Information
1. Virginia Preschool Initiative services are or are not available to my child identified below in the public school division in which my child resides, for which I am the parent or guardian. (Select only One)
2. Student ID name (Provide applicable Identifier): ID Name
3. Date of Birth associated with the above Student: Date of Birth
4. Public School District where above student resides:
5. Parent or/ Guardian Name for above Student:
6. Student City/Town, State, ZIP: Code:
7. Parent/Guardian Phone: Number:
Part II – Declaration
As a parent or guardian of the pre-kindergarten student identified in Part I above, I declare that this form is, to the best of my knowledge and belief, a true, correct and complete certification and that I have made myself aware of the requirements for this scholarship program as prescribed by the Virginia Department of Education and pursuant to Section 58.1-439.25, Code of Virginia. I understand that this certification is to be provided to the scholarship foundation for purposes of administering the Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits Program, and that failure to provide this information may limit my child’s ability to obtain a scholarship in a nonpublic pre-kindergarten program. I understand that this information will remain confidential, and only Part I (1. and 4.) above may be shared by the scholarship foundation with the Virginia Department of Education for purposes of administering the Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits Program.
Printed Name Signature Date