I’ve been working for The Family Foundation for over a decade and thought I’d seen it all, but this morning’s display by several members of the Senate Finance Committee while debating a school choice bill went far beyond anything I’ve ever seen. Delegate Jimmie Massie (R-78, Henrico) presented HB 599, a bill that would provide a tax credit for donations to private school scholarship programs. After several organizations, including The Family Foundation, the Virginia Catholic Conference, a private schools association and a Richmond Jewish school, spoke in support of the bill, the committee took over. From there, the normal decorum of the Senate vanished into a cloud of pure anger.
The hostility of several Democrat members of the Finance Committee to parents and education freedom went on full display. I cannot with words adequately describe what then took place. But you don’t have to take my word for it — we have the entire shameful sequence on video (see our YouTube channel as well)! Here is the entire committee hearing in its entirety:
Part 1, Delegate Massie's Presentation:
Common sense stuff from Delegate Massie and a host of expert witnesses.
Part 2, Supporting Statements Continue:
An eloquent, passionate, personal and intellectual presentation by Chesapeake resident Alberta Wilson.
Part 3, Finance Staff — No Fiscal Impact And The Outrage Begins:
Senator Howell should know the answer before she calls the witness!
Part 4, More Race Cards, Conclusion and Vote:
Senator Miller: This bill is akin to "selling people" but she'd still vote for it once public schools are fully funded!
In addition to all of this, Senator Henry Marsh (D-16, Richmond) criticized the bill without reading it: He accused the bill of subsidizing parents who send their children to private schools, but the bill plainly states the student must currently be enrolled in public schools to be eligible for the scholarships! I urge you to take the time to watch these short videos. I know you will be as dismayed as I was sitting there watching.
In a nutshell, opponents to the bill implied over and over that efforts to provide education freedom for low and moderate-income families is racially motivated. Without actually making the claim it was clear what they were saying. The harsh tone and rhetoric on display was simply appalling. Perhaps most disappointing is the fact that the children who are suffering most from poor government schools are African-American children in urban areas. It is private schools in those areas that offer true hope for children who otherwise have little chance at success. In fact, one of the most compelling testimonies in favor of the bill came from an African-American woman, Alberta Wilson, a champion of school choice!
Question: Do Senators Colgan, Reynolds and Houck, who also voted to kill the bill, agree with their Democrat colleagues' assessment that school choice is essentially racist?
After watching the videos, ask them yourselves:
Senator Charles Colgan: email@example.com, (804) 698-7529
Senator Roscoe Reynolds: firstname.lastname@example.org, (804) 698-7520
Senator Edd Houck: email@example.com, (804) 698-7517
This morning’s antics are emblematic of the philosophical divide between the political class in Richmond and families. But the anger displayed also is indicative that these legislators are beginning to feel the heat! Just two years ago, school choice bills didn’t even register a procedural motion in Senate Finance. Today, they generate heated responses.
I’ll say it again as I’ve said before — school choice is coming to Virginia! It might not be this year, it might not be next year, but it is coming. Families are demanding it. Watch the video so that you can see exactly whom it is that stands in the way of freedom.
You might not hear much about this in the Mainstream Media, although the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot mentions it toward the end of this article. But that's why we and the New Media are here. And, we'd love to hear from you, too. Let us know what your impressions of the committee hearing are.