Virginia enacted the Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits Program in 2012 and launched the program in 2013. This program offers a 65 percent tax credit to individuals and businesses that donate to qualified Scholarship Foundations (SFs). The SFs 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.
2,419 students participating (2015–16)
38 percent of families with children income-eligible statewide
21 scholarship organizations awarding scholarships (2014–15)
138 participating schools (2015–16)
Average scholarship value: $2,564 (2015–16)
Value as a percentage of public school per-student spending: 23 percent
Individual and business taxpayers in Virginia can receive tax credits worth 65 percent of their donations to scholarship foundations, nonprofits that provide private school scholarships. An individual must donate at least $500 and may not donate more than $125,000 per year. There is no limit on the size of business donations. The number of available tax credits is capped at $25 million a year. Donors can take the credit against the same year’s tax obligation.
The total scholarship for any student 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 must come from households where family income is less than 300 percent of the federal poverty line ($73,800 for a family of four in 2017–18); students with special needs also are eligible and have a higher income limitation (400 percent of the federal poverty line or $98,400 for a family of four in 2017– 18). Students must either be enrollees in grades K–1, a public school student the previous school year, a previous scholarship recipient or a new resident of Virginia.
The overall funding cap of $25 million limits Virginia’s scholarships to the already limited pool of qualifying students, and credits received are capped at 65 percent of the contribution amount. That program design does not incentivize substantial donations. The program is limited further by its per-pupil funding, which is only 42 percent of the funding available from state and local sources to public school students. On a positive note, the program requires participating students to take a nationally norm-referenced test chosen by the school, rather than the standardized test mandated by the state. Virginia should consider increasing the funding and credit caps for this program, expand student eligibility and increase the scholarship size.
No legal challenges have been filed against the program.
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