Delegate Jimmie Massie’s (R-72, Henrico) bill to provide a bit of educational choice to Virginia students, HB 599, and, therefore, better education opportunities, is in the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday. The bill would provide a tax credit for businesses and individuals that donate to scholarship funds for students in grades K-12. Qualifying families could use those scholarships to send their children to private schools. Despite fierce opposition from the Virginia School Board Association and the Virginia Education Association, the bill passed the House of Delegates 55-44. The House amended HB 599 in such a way as to ensure that there will be no negative fiscal impact to the Commonwealth — something valuable in today’s economy and something that not many tax credits can boast. In fact, the bill will increase per pupil spending in school districts that lose students to private schools because they will have the same share of federal and local funds to educate less students.
Similar scholarship programs in Pennsylvania and Arizona have been huge successes. Thousands of children have been given opportunities for a better education through scholarships created because funding is available. Despite cries of "taking money from children" in public schools, the scholarship programs in those two states have in no way negatively affected public schools.
Unfortunately, the Senate Finance committee has been very hostile to any legislation that provides education freedom to families. Already this session it voted 9-6 to defeat legislation (SB 133) introduced by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) that was very similar to Delegate Massie’s bill.
In two different polls conducted by, or on behalf of, The Family Foundation or other education freedom supporters over the past two years, large majorities of Virginians indicated their support for tax credits like the one created in HB 599. Wednesday, we will see if the Senate Finance Committee is listening to Virginia parents, who want all options for the best possible education for their children; or, to the special interests and education establishment, who have given us such mediocrity that these innovative options are demanded by the vast majority of parents.