McDonnell Backs School Choice Bill, Howell Provides QOD

At a news conference this morning, Governor Bob McDonnell (see news release) announced his support for Delegate Jimmie Massie’s (R-72, Henrico) legislation that would create education freedom in Virginia by providing tax credits for corporate donations to scholarship programs for private school enrollment. This is an issue The Family Foundation has worked on for years — to provide education freedom to Virginia families (see post about data supporting school choice).  Delegate Massie's bill, HB 2314, is similar to programs that exist in several states, including Pennsylvania, Arizona and Florida. In those states, more than 100,000 students now have educational opportunities they would not otherwise have if they remained captive to failing public schools. Each of these programs began as small efforts but, once law, became extremely successful and were expanded by decisive bipartisan majorities.

At today's news conference, a bill co-patron, Delegate Algie Howell (D-90, Norfolk), and a member of the Legislative Black Caucus who lived through the Civil Rights Era, gave us our Quote of the Day in support of the bill:

I supported school choice before school choice supported me.

That's a reference to Virginia's history of segregated schools and the accompanying disparity in education between white and black students during Massive Resistance. The bill targets low income families that face especially difficult educational issues in urban schools. Delegate Howell noted his personal experience: His two grandchildren left public school to attend Saint Patrick Catholic School in Norfolk. When his son-in-law was transferred to Indiana, the children enrolled in a public school and were tested. Their scores were so far above the school district's norms, district officials wanted to meet them.

In an effort to raise awareness to and support among lawmakers, hundreds of Virginians and students are attending Family Foundation Day at the Capitol on Thursday, February 10 (click here to register or call 804-343-0010). A coalition of groups that day will sponsor a rally for education freedom in Capitol Square (and it wouldn't hurt to contact your delegates and senators now to raise their awareness).

This legislation will help low-income children receive the best education possible. Providing education freedom for parents and children fulfils the Commonwealth's promise to ensure a quality education for everyone, and noted the enormous importance of this transforming issue.

As we have noted repeatedly, momentum for education freedom is growing nationwide and in Virginia because parents and families want more opportunities. The cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all education model of the past century is inadequate for today's society. Public policies must empower families to choose the best environment that meets their children's specific needs. For some, that will be public schools; for others it will be a quality private school.

Delegate Tag Greason (R-32, Loudoun) also is a co-patron of HB 2314. Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) is the patron of a similar Senate version (SB 1194).