Surrounded by children from Elijah House and Precious Blessings Academies at a special ceremony at Elijah House in south Richmond Wednesday, Governor Bob McDonnell signed the Education Improvement Scholarship bill. The legislation provides a tax credit for K-12 scholarship donations by individuals and businesses, and has the potential of providing thousands of families with new education opportunities. After more than two decades of effort, education freedom is finally a reality in Virginia. Despite liberals in Richmond deliberately mislabeling the legislation for years as "giving money to wealthy private academies" — and worse, demagogueing it as akin to massive resistance (must see video), even as urban and black Virginians are among the most anxious for this type of education reform and option — the new law will, in fact, provide previously unattainable pathways to success for potentially thousands of low to middle income children. As we wrote on this blog four years ago, education choice was coming to Virginia sooner rather than later, whether the educrats wanted it or not, because it is good policy and Virginians demanded it.
Modeled after successful programs in Florida, Pennsylvania and Arizona that have provided scholarships for tens of thousands of children, Virginia's new law has the potential of providing nearly 500,000 children with scholarships to attend the school of their choice (see Laura Vozzella at the Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog). The legislation's chief patron for years has been Delegate Jimmie Massie (R-72, Henrico). This year he was joined by Senate patrons Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) and Bill Stanley (R-20, Moneta).
At the ceremony, a student from Elijah House Academy, Glenn Booker, wowed the crowd with his introduction of Governor McDonnell. Separated from his parents and living with his sister in an abandoned apartment, he moved in with his pastor and from there entered Elijah House Academy in 2007. He recently graduated at the top of his class and is headed to Old Dominion University. The goal of the scholarship program is to provide financial assistance to children just like Glenn Booker all over the commonwealth.
The signing of legislation that finally brings education freedom to Virginia is historic. Every child in Virginia deserves the best possible education, whether that is in a public, private or home school environment, and parents should have the choice of which is best for their children. The education scholarship tax credit will provide a lifeline for children and families that until now have not had an opportunity to succeed. The Family Foundation thanks everyone who made this day, more than 20 years in the making, possible.