Governor McDonnell Signs Education Choice/Scholarship Bill

Although the bill passed into law earlier this year, and will take effect beginning July 1, Governor Bob McDonnell ceremoniously signed SB 131 and HB 321 — the Educational Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit — into law earlier today at Elijah House Academy in south Richmond. The law, a Family Foundation priority for years, and which was vigorously opposed by the Virginia Education Association, its allies in the education establishment and the status quo crowd who dread competition for the public education monopoly, will enable individuals and corporations to receive a tax credit for donations toward scholarships needy students in public schools can apply for and use to attend a private school. Similar programs in Florida and Pennsylvania have been overwhelming successes for students to excel through new options and choices to fit their education needs. It establishes a tax credit for scholarship donations to non-profit organizations to be given to K-12 students whose families' annual household income is not in excess of 300 percent of the poverty guidelines and certain students with disabilities. At least 90 percent of each donation must be distributed for scholarships. The tax credit is equal to 65 percent of the donation. There is an annual cap of $25 million.

Family Foundation representatives, other allied organizations, education advocates, teachers, school administrators and legislators whose hard work and tireless efforts over the years made a good idea into law were present for the ceremony, as were the bills' patrons, Senator Bill Stanley (R-20, Moneta) and Delegate Jimmie Massie (R-72, Henrico). Events such as these are a great reminder that perseverance in the legislative process is paramount to effect positive changes in public policy and that, in the long run, it is worth it to stick to principle despite the naysayers and vilification by those vested in the government-knows-best philosophy. A big thanks to everyone across Virginia who voiced their support for this landmark legislation to their delegates and senators. Here are quotes and pictures from the event.

Governor McDonnell:

Every Virginia student should have the opportunity to get a good education and develop their unique talents. The legislation signed today enlists the private sector to stretch state dollars further in providing greater educational opportunity to families who would otherwise have a financial barrier. I thank Senator Stanley and Delegate Massie for their leadership in the General Assembly and also thank all of the advocates, families and students for voicing their support for this measure.

Delegate Massie:

Today’s signing ceremony marks an important step that Virginia is taking to change and improve our K through 12 education system. That is to best prepare our children to compete in a global economy! By signing this bill into law, students from low and moderate income families, and students with disabilities, will be given new opportunities to achieve their academic potential. As this legislation goes into effect next week, I look forward to working with and seeing the fruits of this partnership with members of the business community, and all Virginians, to help more Virginia students get a world-class education.

Senator Stanley:

I am very excited to finally see this bill through, and to immediately start helping students gain easier and more affordable access to good education. I have always believed that a good education is vital to equal opportunity in the future. This legislation represents a significant investment in additional educational opportunities for our young people. Thank you again to all of those who advocated for this legislation, particularly House Patron Delegate Massie and Governor McDonnell.

Governor Bob McDonnell addresses students who will benefit from the new education choice scholarships created by the Educational Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit .

It's official! Governor McDonnell puts his signature the legislation to cap off a decade-plus-long effort to bring education choice to Virginia.