Friedman Foundation responds to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s veto of choice program for students with disabilities

INDIANAPOLIS – The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice responded to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s veto late yesterday of the Parental Choice in Education Savings Account (PCESA) program, which would have provided educational choice options to families of students with disabilities in the Commonwealth. McAuliffe also vetoed two additional bills aimed at expanding school options for Virginia students.

Friedman Foundation President and CEO Robert Enlow and Vice President of Programs Leslie Hiner issued the following statement:

“We are extremely disappointed that Gov. McAuliffe has vetoed legislation designed to empower the families of students with disabilities to make the best educational choices for their children. This cost-saving program was designed to expand options for those students who are too often left behind by traditional schools because of their special needs.

“Gov. McAuliffe had a chance to join a number of other Governors across America who have expanded educational choices for students with disabilities. Instead, he vetoed a program because he said it sends ‘the wrong message’ about public education. The only message that’s wrong in this situation is the one-size-fits-all message the Governor just sent to Virginia’s families.”

The PCESA (HB 389) is an education savings account (ESA) program that would have allowed the families of students with disabilities to utilize 90 percent of the Standards of Quality (SOQ) per-pupil state funds that would have been spent on a student in public school. The funds would have been deposited into a government-authorized, restricted-use savings account for parents to fully tailor their child’s education to their individual learning needs through private school tuition, private tutoring, online learning, curricula and textbooks, AP courses, individual public school classes, and a host of other education tools and services. Unused funds in the PCESA account would have rolled into the next year, and into a college savings account for four years following the student graduation.

There currently are 15 school choice programs in place nationally to help students with disabilities gain access to additional K-12 educational options, similar to the PCESA.

The Commonwealth spent $11,242 per student in the 2015–16 school year. The PCESA would only use $3,625 of that amount based on variable costs within the school that are dependent on the amount of students enrolled, such as transportation and supplies. The remaining funds are retained by the Commonwealth.

To arrange an interview with Mr. Enlow or Ms. Hiner, please contact Jennifer Wagner at

More information about the Virginia bill: