State Government Issues

Summary of Virginia Laws Affecting Private Schools

This page was last updated on January 16, 2023

ODACS Legislative Update, 2023 Session

Following is a summary of several bills that ODACS is following during the 2023 General Assembly.

School Choice

HB 1508 - Virginia Education Success Account Program

HB 1508 would allow parents to establish and Education Savings Account using 95% of the applicable per-pupil state funding.  Parents could then use those funds to customize their children's education, including tuition to private schools.  The bill includes excellent protections for the autonomy of private schools that enroll students who benefit from the program.

ODACS Supports HB 1508

Text of HB 1508

HB 1701 - Background Checks for Private School Teachers

HB 1701 would clarify that the Virginia Council for Private Education may have access to background check information for private school teachers for purposes of accreditation.  While ODACS supports the intent of the bill, we are concerned about the potential for unintended consequences that may result from some of the proposed language.

ODACS is seeking to amend HB 1701

Text of HB 1701

Other Recent Memos

July 15, 2022 - Open Letter to Governor Youngkin; ODACS Concerns about Virginia Childcare Policy

July 6, 2022 - ODACS Update on New Law Regarding Administration of Epinephrine

August 13, 2021 - ODACS Update; Response to Mask Mandate for Schools

November 13, 2020 - ODACS Update on Governor's Amended Executive Orders

November 13, 2020 - Amended Executive Order 63 (Face Coverings)

November 13, 2020 - Amended Executive Order 67 (Phase III Restrictions)

September 29, 2020 - DOLI Temporary COVID-19 Standard for Employers

September 24, 2020 - ODACS Summary of VDSS Updated Phase III Childcare Guidance

September 24, 2020 - VDSS Updated Phase III Childcare Guidance, Group Size Limitations Lifted

August 10, 2020 - Rationale for ODACS Reopening Advice to Schools

August 5, 2020 - ODACS Advice to School about Reopening, Updated

July 6, 2020 - Update on Phase Guidance for Virginia Schools

June 30, 2020 - ODACS Advice to Schools about Reopening for the 2020-2021 School Year

June 30, 2020 - ODACS Reply to the Superintendent of Public Instruction

June 24, 2020 - Response to ODACS Questions from the Superintendent of Public Instruction

June 15, 2020 - ODACS Requests Help Seeking Attorney General's Opinion about the Legality of Certain Aspects of the State's School Reopening Requirements as They Apply to Private Schools

June 9, 2020 - VDH Guidance for School Reopening Plans

June 9, 2020 - Health Commissioner's Order, Private Schools Must Submit Reopening Plans to VDOE

Governor's COVID-19 Executive Orders

June 2, 2020 - Executive Order 65, Phase II Easing of Restrictions

May 27, 2020 - Executive Order 63, Face Mask Mandate

May 13, 2020 - Executive Order 61, Religious Services

May 8, 2020 - Executive Order 61, Phase I Easing of Restrictions

March 30, 2020 - Executive Order 55, Temporary Stay at Home Order

March 23, 2020 - Executive Order 53, School Closure Order and Other Restrictions

All of Governor Northam's Executive Orders

ODACS Legislative Update, 2022 Session

Following is a summary of several bills that ODACS followed during the 2022 General Assembly.

School Choice

HB 293 - Education Savings Account Program

HB 293 would have allowed parents to establish an Education Savings Account (ESA), using funding that would have been used to educate the child in a public school.  Funds in the account could be used for tuition and other expenses at a private school.  HB 293 did not pass.

ODACS Supported HB 293

Text of HB 293

HB 333 - Student Education Accounts

HB 333 would allow any local school board to establish a program of Student Education Accounts, similar to the ESA's proposed by HB 333.  HB 333 was defeated in committee.

ODACS Supported HB 333

Text of HB 333

HB 982 - Education Savings Account Program; Education Improvement Scholarship Tax Credit Program

HB 982 would have established an Education Savings Account program.  It would also would have amended the Education Improvement Scholarship Tax Credit program by increasing the tax credit for donations to scholarship foundations from 65% to 100%.  HN 982 did not pass.

ODACS Supported HB 982

Text of HB 982

School Security Officers

HB 8 - Duties of School Security Officers; Veterans May Serve as School Security Officers

HB 8 would have opened the way for school security officers, in both public and private schools, to take on other duties in addition to their security duties.  It also would have made it easier for public and private schools to hire retired veterans as school security officers.  HB 8 was passed by the House but defeated in a Senate committee.

ODACS Supported HB 8

Text of HB 8

ODACS Legislative Update, 2020 Session

Following is a summary of several bills that ODACS followed during the 2020 General Assembly.

Child Care

HB 1012, SB 578, and SB 599 - Shifting Purview of Childcare Policy from VDSS to VDOE

HB 1012 and SB 578 were omnibus bills that proposed a major shift in Virginia's childcare policy.  ODACS had a number of concerns, which are set forth in our position statement.  SB 599 proposed an alternative, setting up a study group to examine the issue.  The study group would have included organizations whose voices and perspectives to date have been excluded from the discussions surrounding the proposal.  HB 1012 and SB 578 were passed into law and became effective on July 1, 2021.

ODACS Opposed HB 1012 and SB 578

ODACS Supported SB 599

ODACS Position Statement on HB 1012, SB 578, and SB 599

HB 1235 and SB 927 - Clarification of Staff-Child Ratios for Religiously Exempt Daycares and Preschools

HB 1235 and SB 927 clarified a confusing sentence in the Code, related to staff-child ratios for Religiously Exempt child day centers.  A number of ministries around the state had been encountering disagreement with local licensing inspectors regarding the interpretation of this sentence.  Some ministries had even incurred undue inconvenience and expense.

ODACS Supported HB 1235 and SB 927

Update - On March 27, Governor Northam signed both HB 1235 and SB 927 into law!  The bills became effective on July 1, 2020.

ODACS Position Statement on HB 1235 and SB 927

School Choice

HB 521 - Repeal of the Educational Improvement Scholarship Tax Credit

The EISTC is a program that uses privated funding to assist low-income families with private school tuition.  HB 521 would have eliminated that program from Virginia law.

ODACS Opposed HB 521

ODACS Legislative Update, 2019 Session

Child Care

HB 2458, SB 1095, and SB 1313 - Transfer of Childcare Policy Between Departments

These identical bills would have transferred authority for all childcare/preschool licensing and licensure exemption policy from purview of the Department of Social Services to the purview of the Department of Education.  ODACS had a number of serious concerns that we expressed to the General Assembly.  The bills did not pass into law.

Text of SB 1095

Sample Letter of Concern, to Delegates and Senators


HB 1627 - Prioritizing VDSS Inspections of Childcare Facilities

HB 1627 required the Department of Social Services to place higher priority on inspections of licensed childcare agencies and on childcare agencies that receive taxpayer subsidies than on license exempt childcare agencies that do not receive taxpayer subsidies.  The bill became law on July 1, 2019.

Text of HB 1627


ODACS Legislative Update, 2018 Session


SB 539 - Restructuring of Virginia's Childcare Licensure Exemption Code

SB 539 was the 2018 version of 2017's SB 1239.  The bill significantly restructured Virginia's list of childcare licensure exemptions.  Through ODACS efforts, the bill removed church ministries such as Sunday school and nurseries from the list and placed them in a new list, redefining them as not being child day programs under the law and therefore as not being subject to licensure.  The bill required all remaining licensure exemptions (instead of just the Religious Exemption) to be registered annually with the state, and it placed new minimum safety requirements on exempt childcare centers that previously had no requirements whatsoever.  The bill also added new requirements to Religiously Exempt childcare centers.

ODACS supported SB 539 but sought several amendments.  Several of the amendments were designed to limit VDSS's authority to define new requirements by placing those definitions in Code instead of in regulations.  Some of those requirements include safe sleep for infants and mandated reporting of fatalities and of serious physical injuries.  Another amendment maintained current, instead of stricter, pupil to student ratios for school-age children in before- and after-school care.

ODACS Supported SB 539, with several amendments; all of the ODACS amendments were adopted by the General Assembly, and the bill was passed into law with an effective date of July 1, 2019.

HB 545 - Religious Exemption from Childcare Licensure

HB 545 required that the person in charge of a church-run daycare or preschool NOT be a person who is ineligible to operate any other kind of child welfare agency, such as a licensed daycare.  The bill arose from a case in which a small child died in a Religious Exempt daycare being run by a person who had previously run a licensed center that was about to be closed by VDSS because of numerous safety violations.  ODACS believes that this bill provided the Religious Exemption an important layer of protection against abuse.  Delegate Nick Freitas was the patron of HB 545.

ODACS Supported HB 545; HB 545 was passed into law.

SB 79 - Firearms on Preschool or Daycare Property

It is currently against the law to possess a firearm on the property of a private school that operates any or all of grades K-12.  However, the law does permit the private school to have a trained and armed security officer.  SB 79 expanded these same rules to schools or daycares with preschool age children.  The bill essentially codified what is already the status quo in ODACS ministries.  Senator Louise Lucas is the patron of SB 79.

ODACS Supported SB 79; SB 79 failed to pass.

HB 873 and SB 121 - Background Checks for Church-Run Preschools and Daycares

HB 873 extended the sunset clause from Chapter 751 of the Act of Assembly of 2017 by two years to July 1, 2020, whereas SB 121 would have repealed the sunset clause.  This clause previously set the end of the FBI fingerprint background check requirement for Religious Exempt childcare centers after July 1, 2018.  While ODACS ministries support and practice reasonable child safety measures, we are convinced that there is more than meets the eye with the new background check requirement.  1.  We believe that the state has failed to satisfactorily make the case that the current system of state police background checks is unsafe.  2.  HB 1568 and SB 897 from the 2017 session (scroll down for more information) were offered in response to new federal rules placed on childcare centers that DO NOT receive federal funding as a means of qualifying childcare centers that DO receive federal funding.  This means of dispersing government subsidies is fundamentally unfair and establishes a new slippery slope - potentially a means whereby the government can coerce church-run ministries in matters of conscience as well as in matters of safety.  There is data that suggests that Religious Exempt childcare centers are among the safest in the state, if not the safest in the state.  Nevertheless, these centers are often viewed with suspicion and treated as unsafe by proponents of universal licensure.  ODACS is convinced that the new federal rules arise from just such an unwarranted suspicion.

ODACS Supported HB 873; ODACS Opposed SB 121; SB 121 was amended to delay the sunset clause until 2020, and the bills were passed into law.

Text of HB 873; Text of SB 121

ODACS Statement on SB 121

ODACS Legislative Update, 2017 Session


SB 1239 - Restructuring of Virginia's Child Care Licensure Exemption Code

SB 1239 would have overhauled the current list of child care licensure exemptions in Virginia Code.  Among the changes was a new list that defines certain kinds of child care as not being child day centers; included in this new list are church ministries such as Sunday school and church nurseries.  The bill also includes several changes for Religious Exempt daycares.  ODACS has spent much time negotiating the details of these changes and trying to ensure that the bill does not give VDSS any new regulatory authority over our ministries.  On May 4, 2017, Governor McAuliffe vetoed SB 1239.

ODACS supported SB 1239, with amendments; the governor vetoed the bill because of an amendment that was favorable to ODACS.

Veto Press Release from the Office of the Governor

ODACS Response to Governor's Recommendations

Chart - Virginia Childcare Safety Gap

Chart - Virginia Childcare Center Child Abuse Data


HB 1568 and SB 897 - New Requirements for Virginia Daycares, as Conditions for Receipt of Federal Funding

HB 1568 and SB 897 placed new background check requirements on Religious Exempt daycares, as a condition for receipt of federal funding by other daycares, despite the fact that our daycares have no desire to receive federal funding.  The pretext for such executive and bureaucratic overreach is child safety, even though no safety problem has been identified in Religious Exempt Centers.  ODACS contended that Relgious Exempt daycare centers are among the safest in Virginia, if not the safest!

ODACS Opposed HB 1568 and SB 897; the bills were passed into law.

Sample Letter to Delegate or Senator

Sample Talking Points

Proposed Amendments to HB 1568

ODACS Committee Testimony on HB 1568

Excerpt from Federal Government Rules, Discussing Bureaucratic Overreach

Chart - Virginia Childcare Center Safety Gap

Chart - Virginia Childcare Center Child Abuse Data

Washington Post Article, Advocating Stronger Standards in Child Day Homes

Blog Post, Addressing Incorrect Claims in the WP Article

Washington Post Article, Documenting Tragic Deaths in Licensed and Unlicensed Virginia Daycares


Graduation Requirements, Definition of High School Credit, and Other State Standards

While private schools in Virginia are not legally bound to the same graduation requirements as public schools, Christian schools should be aware of changes in state requirements and understand how their own requirements compare.  AACS accredited schools must meet the state's graduation requirements.  Use the following links to learn more.

Current Virginia Standards of Accreditation

Current Guidance Document for SOA

Department of Education, SOA Web Site

Other Resources

FREE BROCHURE from CLA - Pastors, Pulpits, and Politics

Immunization Requirements

Immunization Reporting Web Site

(Note:  You may contact either ODACS or VDH to obtain the password for the reporting website.)