Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits Program
- Tax-Credit Scholarship
- Enacted 2012
- Launched 2013
Virginia’s Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits Program offers a 65 percent tax credit to individuals and businesses to donate to qualified scholarship foundations. The foundations then provide private school scholarships to students whose families meet the income requirements. This page offers more information about the tax-credit scholarship program’s funding, eligibility, regulations and more.
We do not administer this program.
Students Participating (2019–20)
of Families with Children Income-eligible Statewide
Scholarship Organizations (2019–20)
Participating Schools (2019–20)
Average Scholarship Value (2019–20)
Value as a Percentage of Public School Per-student Spending
Virginia’s Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits Program Participation
The total scholarship funding for students without special needs cannot exceed the actual education expenses of the student or 100 percent of the per-pupil amount distributed to the local public school by the state, whichever is less. Students may receive more than one scholarship from scholarship foundations. Students with special needs may be funded with scholarships worth up to 300 percent of the commonwealth’s per-pupil amount if they attend specially licensed schools specifically for students with special needs. Otherwise, special needs students receive up to 100 percent of the per-pupil amount.
Students must come from households where family income is less than 300 percent of the federal poverty line ($78,600 for a family of four in 2020–21). Students with special needs also are eligible and have an income limitation of 400 percent FPL ($104,800 for a family of four in 2020–21). Students must either A) be enrollees in kindergarten or first grade, or B) be a public school student the previous school year, a previous scholarship recipient or a new resident of Virginia. Prekindergartners are also eligible if they are deemed an at-risk 4-year-old unable to obtain public early childhood services and meet the income requirements.
EdChoice Expert Feedback
Virginia’s tax-credit scholarship program helps thousands of students access schools that are the right fit for them, but policymakers could do more to expand educational opportunity.
Eligibility for the scholarships is limited to students from families earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty line or students with special needs. Only 37 percent of Virginia students are eligible for a scholarship and only 0.3 percent of students statewide actually use a scholarship.
The average scholarship size is about $3,100, which is about 26 percent of the average expenditure per student at Virginia’s district schools, though the cap on scholarship values is pegged to the state’s average per-pupil allocation to district schools (or 300% for students with special needs). Tax credits are worth only 65 percent of the value of the contributions to scholarship organizations and only $25 million in tax credits are available annually, which is equivalent to only 0.15 percent of Virginia’s total K–12 revenue.
In order to expand access to educational choice, Virginia policymakers should dramatically increase the available tax credits, raise the credit value to make it easier for scholarship organizations to raise funds, and expand eligibility to all students (prioritizing scholarships based on need). The program could also be converted into an education savings account to ensure that all students have access to the education that’s the right fit for them, whether private school or a customized course of education.
Virginia’s scholarship program generally avoids unnecessary and counterproductive regulations.
Rules and Regulations
- Income Limit: 300 percent x Poverty (400 percent for students with special needs)
- Prior Year Public School Requirement: Conditional
- Geographic Limit: Statewide
- Enrollment Cap: None
- Scholarship Cap: 100 percent of state funding
- Testing Mandates: National
- Credit Value: 65 percent
- Per Donor Credit Cap: $125,000 (individual) / None (business)
- Budget Cap: $25 million
Scholarship Foundation Requirements:
- Be approved by the state
- Use at least 90 percent of contributions for scholarships
- Make scholarships available for more than one school
- Comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- Conduct an annual audit, review or compilation on tax credit-derived funds
- Submit to the state:
- Total number and dollar amount of contributions received
- Dates when such contributions were received
- Total number and dollar amount of scholarships awarded
No legal challenges have been filed against the program.