public schools

Urge Override Of Governor McAuliffe’s Vetoes!

Recently, Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed two bills that would protect religious liberty: SB 236, a bill that would protect the free speech rights of public school students; and SB 555, a bill that would have prohibited government censorship of military chaplain sermons. Both passed with large bipartisan majorities, including a unanimous vote in the Senate for SB 555! The General Assembly will hold its annual "veto session," where it reviews vetoes and amendments to bills, on Wednesday, April 23:

Please urge your senators and delegates to vote to override the governor's vetoes of SB 236 and SB 555 (click the links to find their contact information). If you don't know who your legislators are, click here.

SB 236, patroned by Senator Bill Carrico (R-40, Galax), would create "limited public forums" at certain public school events. Limited public forums restrict the schools from censoring speech simply because it is from a faith perspective. The schools can still "limit" the speech to the matter at hand; for example, a graduation speech still has to be about graduating, but it can contain statements about the importance of faith. The bill also protects students' rights to organize prayer groups, have events such as "see you at the pole" gatherings and wear clothing with religious expressions.

Students in our public schools shouldn't be treated as a second-class citizen simply because their viewpoint is motivated by their faith, regardless of what faith perspective they have. It is tragic that in Virginia, the birthplace of religious freedom, Governor McAuliffe has chosen to listen to the ACLU and has trampled on the right of Virginia's students to simply express their beliefs.

SB 555, patroned by Senator Dick Black (R-13, Leesburg), prohibited state government from censoring sermons given by chaplains in the Virginia National Guard and Virginia Defense Force. This reasonable, common sense measure passed the Senate in January 37-0! The governor's explanation for vetoing the bill is a remarkable misunderstanding of the actual definition of a chaplain.

Overriding a governor's veto requires two-thirds support from both chambers, meaning that 27 members of the Senate and 67 members of the House of Delegates have to vote for an override.

At what point do we finally say, enough is enough? Our God-given, inalienable right to exercise our faith, live according to our conscience, and speak truth to culture is in serious jeopardy if we allow people like Terry McAuliffe to dictate what we can and cannot do in the public square.

Your legislators, regardless of party, need to hear from you. They need to know that you are not going to stand for this type of discrimination any longer! Please act today:

Contact your senators and delegates today and ask them to override Governor McAuliffe's vetoes of SB 236 and SB 555 at the upcoming April 23 Veto Session.

Urge Governor To Protect Student Free Speech Rights!

The General Assembly recently passed SB 236, a priority for The Family Foundation that protects the rights of public school students to express their faith at various school events. The House of Delegates passed the bill by a vote of 64-34.  Earlier this session the bill passed the Virginia Senate 20-18. The bill is now awaiting action by Governor Terry McAuliffe. Unfortunately, the governor has indicated that he is likely to veto this reasonable legislation that simply ensures that religious speech is treated by our public schools exactly like any other type of speech.

Please contact Governor McAuliffe and urge him to sign SB 236, protecting the free speech rights of public school students!

Hostility to simply expressing one’s faith in the public square is becoming more and more prevalent. A student in our public schools shouldn’t be treated as a second class citizen simply because their viewpoint is motivated by their faith, regardless of what faith perspective they have. And while some opponents to the bill argue that such speech is already protected, they also argue that allowing students to express their faith could be seen as "coercive" and "offensive" to those who don’t share that faith. In such cases, the government is supposed to be "neutral," but those who oppose bills like SB 236 desire no such neutrality. They desire silencing of faith perspectives and adherence to secular dogma.

Recently, my piece explaining why SB 236 is necessary and what it actually does appeared in The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot.

The bill, patroned by Senator Bill Carrico (R-40, Galax), is based on federal court precedent and existing law in at least two other states. Opposition comes primarily from the ACLU and the education establishment.

Please contact Governor McAuliffe and urge him to sign SB 236, protecting the free speech rights of public school students!

"Tebow Bill" In Senate Committee Tomorrow: Urge Support Of Fairness For Homeschoolers

Facing its biggest legislative challenge, not unlike the last-minute, game-on-the-line-drive some young athlete who would benefit from the bill may one day lead, HB 1442, the often-called "Tebow Bill," will be considered tomorrow in the Senate Education and Health Committee. The bill would assist home school students in participating in public school sports and is a top priority for The Family Foundation.

Please click here to see if your senator is on the committee and urge him or her, or other committee members, to vote in favor of HB 1442!

The legislation, patroned by Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Charlottesville), would break down barriers that prevent home school students from playing public high school sports by prohibiting localities from joining the Virginia High School League, a pseudo-state/private entity that regulates public school sports. Under the provisions of the measure, localities would not be able to contract with VHSL if they don't allow home school students to participate. Half the states in the nation have some type of measure that provides opportunities to home school students to participate in public school sports.

Remarkably, yesterday, even the liberal Washington Post editorial board came out in favor of the "Tebow Bill"! Last year, the New York Times reported on the bill, and quoted school officials in other states who expressed the same fears the VHSL now mimics when their legislatures debated similar legislation. But after the law took affect, they found their fears misplaced. Polling done earlier this session by VCU's Commonwealth Educational Policy Institute showed that nearly two-thirds of Virginians support fairness for home school students in participating in public school sports. This mirrored our own poll, one year ago, done by Mason-Dixon.

Last year, a similar proposal was defeated in Ed and Health by one vote. If you can attend the meeting to show support, please be there promptly at 8:00 a.m. Though the bill could be heard anytime that morning, seating is limited so you want to be there on time! A crowd of supporters, particularly home school families, can make a big difference!

In essence, all we are asking for is a chance for home school kids to try out. This bill doesn't force any home school student to participate in any activity. It simply requires that the Virginia High School League allow home school students to try out for sports teams or public schools can't contract with VHSL. The bill also requires home school students who participate to meet the disciplinary requirements and allows for families to be charged any fees associated with participation. Local school systems could also add requirements.

The children of families who pay taxes that support the local public schools and are part of our communities, continue to be denied the ability to try out for an activity that they are funding for the simple reason that they are home schooled. This discriminatory practice must end.

Opponents such as the VHSL, the Virginia Education Association and the Parent Teacher Association, are doing all that they can to prevent this bill from passing. It's late in the game and your help is needed. Your voice is critical to the success of this bill.

Let's Have A Referenda On Ten Commandments

Clearly, the Ten Commandments bother people. There are some that Americans seem to be ok with, others not so much. In Giles County, where the Ten Commandments were displayed in the "public" schools for a time, the debate over God's Top 10 is raging once again. Heaven forbid our kids be influenced by "though shalt not steal." The Supreme Court has split the baby, so to speak, on the issue. According to the anointed nine, if the motive for the display of the Commandments (on "public property") is secular, it's constitutional. If, however, the motive is "religious," cue the wreaking ball. It is up to judges to determine the motive. (Clearly that's what the Founders were shooting for).

Enter federal Judge Michael Urbanski. He's trying to get to the bottom of Giles County's motive, and has indicated that he's very, very worried that the display of the Ten Commandments might be motivated by, gasp, religion. So, he's come up with a unique suggestion.

Just display the six "non-religious" Commandments. Seriously.

If only Moses had thought of that first, imagine the trouble we could have avoided.

But then again, we're not doing so well with the "bottom six" are we? It seems that lots of Americans are pretty offended by the whole "don't commit adultery" thing. So here's my suggestion:

Let's put the Ten Commandments to a vote. Put all ten on the ballot, but you only get to keep five. The top five vote-getters stay, the bottom five, well, too bad. After all God, we know better than You about these things. Times have changed. We're, well, progressive. Your silly rules are just so oppressive.

Besides, we don't want some activist federal judge to decide which of the Commandments are still useful. That simply goes too far. We're Americans. We live in a democracy. Let's do what we do — put it to a vote.

May the best five win!

Hey, it's no worse an idea than Judge Urbanski's.

What’s Next for Same-Sex Marriage Advocates?

Proponents of same-sex marriage are quick to claim that all they want is "marriage equality." Nothing more. They’ll be content if they can just have "equality." But we all know that reality doesn't end there. In recent weeks, same-sex advocates have finally begun to admit it themselves. Published only days ago in a New York Times piece, Stanford Law Professor Ralph Banks, asks:

What now of the two remaining criminal prohibitions of intimate relationships: incest and polygamy? Even as same sex ... relationships are accepted, Americans are now imprisoned for incest and polygamy. ... Over time, our moral assessments of these practices will shift. … Should a state be permitted to imprison two cousins because they have sex or attempt to marry? Should a man and two wives be permitted to live together as a family when they assert that their religious convictions lead them to do so?

Just the rantings of a left-wing professor? No. Professor Banks' words actually have proven to be prophetic (see ADF's Jordan Lorence at the Christian Post blog, here). Just days after the governor of New York signed its same-sex marriage bill into law, a man in Utah, along with his four wives, were inspired to file a lawsuit challenging Utah's polygamy ban, stating, "We only wish to live our private lives according to our beliefs."

Just equality, right?

Homosexual rights advocate Dan Savage goes even further and continues the marriage muddling, arguing, "We aren’t wired for monogamy." He tells the New York Times magazine that America needs a more "realistic" view of marriage and that it's the LGBT community's responsibility to bring "open relationships" to the definition of marriage — to create an environment that's "more forgiving of the occasional affair." Savage's "It Gets Better" homosexuality campaign targets children and teenagers and is promoted by homosexual groups as an "anti-bullying" project to be used by public schools.

John Corvine, professor at Wayne State University, is heading in the same direction as Professor Banks and Mr. Savage. Reflecting on the same-sex marriage debate in New York, Professor Corvine writes:

It’s worth remembering that polygamy is quite "traditional," even biblical. It is no more logically connected to one side of this debate than the other. The truth is that New York granted same-sex couples marriage rights not because of a radical idea, but because of an old-fashioned one: when two individuals commit to a lifetime of mutual love and care, it's good to support them — or at least get out of their way.

When we stray from the God-given confines of marriage, where do we draw the line? How is it fair to term one meandering relationship "recognized" without validating the other variations? Where does it end?

Same-sex advocates have no intention of declaring victory in New York and calling it quits. The goal is not to advance "equality." The goal is to redefine marriage until existing sexual norms are no longer in existence. Counterfeit forms of marriage cheapen and undermine real marriage. The union of a man and a woman in a committed marriage is the foundation of a stable society. Traditional marriage and family are too important for society to experiment with to advance a political agenda.

Social science and history concur: men, women and children are more likely to succeed emotionally, financially, and educationally within a two-parent, mother-father, married family. Marriage, properly defined, matters. Regardless of the agenda of left-wing advocates, The Family Foundation will continue to fight to protect the definitions and institutions of marriage and family in our Commonwealth.

Despite Survey, Freedom Isn't Very Free For Virginia Parents

As we celebrated the birth of our nation over the weekend, a George Mason University Mercatus Center study pronounced Virginia the "ninth" freest state in the nation (Richmond Times-Dispatch). Taking into consideration tax rates, criminal law, education and several other factors, the study proclaimed Virginia the freest state in the South. Juxtaposed to this study is an editorial in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal that announced 2011 as “the year of school choice.” According to The Journal, "No fewer than 13 states have enacted school choice legislation in 2011." From Florida to Maine to Utah, state legislatures have enacted policies that advance the cause of freedom for parents of school children.

The piece goes on to say:

School choice proponents may have had their biggest success in Indiana, where Republican Governor Mitch Daniels signed legislation that removes the charter cap, allows all universities to be charter authorizers, and creates a voucher program that enables about half the state's students to attend public or private schools.

Unfortunately, Virginia is not one of the states that has advanced in the area of education freedom. In a state where its politicians tout its business-friendly environment seemingly on a daily basis, parents are unfortunately left with little or no option when it comes to where they can send their children for their education. Unless financially able, most parents lack the freedom to choose the school that best meets their children's needs.

While many other states recognize the advantages of education freedom and its benefits for both families and our economy, Virginia remains stuck in the past, bowing to education elites and failing to live up to its perception of liberty. Unfortunately, this is not just a partisan issue, as some Republicans who wouldn't dare vote against anything that would hinder business in Virginia are all too happy to vote against freeing families from education purgatory, joining Democrats who have blocked even the most modest education freedom legislation for years. All seem fearful of the Virginia Education Association, the state chapter of the powerful National Education Association, which just endorsed President Obama in his 2012 presidential bid despite his Republican opponent not yet being chosen. The VEA leads the opposition to Virginia educational freedom and many elected officials in Virginia march in lock step with the VEA.

The Family Foundation has fought for education freedom since its early days and will continue to do so. Providing families with multiple education options for their children remains one of our highest priorities. Virginia’s ranking as a "free" state would be more believable if parents were actually free.

Sometimes Repetition Is Important

Maybe you've seen this before. If you haven't, you need to. If you have, it bears repeating. If there is any doubt about the intentions, the motives and the goals of the teachers union — the NEA and its Virginia affiliate the VEA — please listen to now former NEA General Counsel Bob Chanin the union's 2009 convention, where he explains his "most important point" — it's not about the merit of their positions, it's not about students, it's not even about "a vision for a great public school for every child." What's it about, then? Power and money, baby! He says so proudly. Power, money and politics. One might even say bullying. Education? "That's simply too high a price to pay" (ironic since they extract a huge price from taxpayers for failing schools, but that's another subject). For all the posturing, disingenuine care for improvement, faux concern for education, demagoguing the need for more tax dollars, and vilifying of those who dare to offer solutions which don't fit their status quo template, they sing a more revealing tune tune behind closed doors.

It's important to know with whom you deal in the public policy arena and to understand their true intentions, which they often obscure by reasonable sounding public rhetoric. Discerning their aims isn't usually difficult — the first howl against education choice and reform or for more taxes and spending for a failing system (a VEA broken record) gives it away. But it's nice to hear them arrogantly admit exactly what they're in it for — money and power — especially when they think no one is listening. That makes it a tad bit sweeter, though they seem not to suffer any shame from it. More and more, however, people are waking up to the real motivation (as they themselves state it) behind the teachers union and its bosses.

"It is not because the merits of our positions. It is not because we care about children. ... NEA is effective we because we have power !"

Education Choice Bill Up For Vote Tuesday In Senate Finance: Who's Living In The Past?

Bringing at least a modicum of school choice and education freedom long has been a goal of reform minded people who realize that the government-run education monopoly is holding back academic achievement. This Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee has a chance to show its open mindedness and independence from the education establishment when it votes on HB 2314, patroned by Delegate Jimmie Massie's (R-72, Henrico). The bill establishes a tax credit for businesses donating to non-profit organizations providing scholarships to free and reduced lunch students (family of four earning less than $40,793 per year). Despite fierce opposition from the Virginia School Board Association and the Virginia Education Association, the bill passed the House of Delegates 54-45 this week.

The modesty of this bill is testimony to how tenacious and powerful the Educrat establishment is in Richmond. It will fight to the death anything that hints at cracking its monopoly or reforms it from within. This is no exaggeration. The Educrats even are resisting a bill to provide for more physical education (HB 1644), patroned by Delegate John O'Bannon (R-73, Henrico). (See Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog.)

On the heels of yesterday's well-attended Family Foundation Day at the Capitol and rally focused on school choice, we think there is real momentum to pass HB 2314. It's certainly well passed time, considering the state of public education in certain areas of the state and for certain families that are trapped with no option but to attend an inadequate public school.   Similar scholarship programs in Pennsylvania and Florida have been huge successes. Florida's program is a prime example, where demand for a program started in 2001 has grown from $50 million to $88 million, providing scholarships for more than 33,000 low-income children.   The bill is designed to avoid the nefarious "negative fiscal impact" to the state. In fact, the fiscal impact will be all positive. Florida's program, for example, saved that state $36 million in the 2008-09 fiscal year alone, according to the Florida Office of Program Analysis and Government Accountability.   In Florida and elsewhere, 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 other 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. Last year, it killed a similar bill by a 9-6 vote — see committee members make outlandish and outrageous comments.   In two different polls conducted by, or on behalf of, The Family Foundation or other education freedom supporters over the past three years, large majorities of Virginians have indicated their support for tax credits like the one created in HB 2314.

Certain liberals like to say, "Conservatives want to take us back," although they never specify where. Perhaps it's more a case of liberals holding us back — or stuck in the past — with ideas no longer as effective as once were, and never moving forward with proven reforms.

Please contact members of the Senate Finance Committee and urge them to vote for HB 2314. We are close and only need to flip two votes.

Family Foundation Day At The Capitol Is Thursday!

The Family Foundation's Annual Day at the Capitol is this Thursday, with an emphasis 0n education freedom — particularly legislation that provides tax credits for private school scholarships. We need to send a loud message to our legislators that, after years of dragging their feet while public education deteriorates (especially for the underprivileged who are trapped in failing schools by an education establishment unwilling to embrace reforms) and options and competition few, educational opportunity for all children is the right choice for Virginia.    Registration for the event, at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, begins at 8:30. The program begins at 9:00 with a briefing  from lawmakers and policy makers, includes a visit with your legislators, and ends with a rally on the Capitol Square grounds. Some of our special speakers include Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, Secretary of Education Gerard Robinson and Family Foundation Chaplain, Bishop E. W. Jackson, Sr.   You will have an opportunity to meet with your legislators, get updates from The Family Foundation staff and enjoy optional tours of Mr. Jefferson's Capitol, the Governor's Mansion and the Virginia Supreme Court during the afternoon. Tours are available on a first come, first serve basis the morning of the event, so if you are interested get to Richmond early.   While our format is a bit different this year, it will be an extremely exciting Lobby Day at the Capitol. Christian and private schools from across the Commonwealth will participate with us. If you are affiliated with a Christian or private school, please share this information with the school and fellow parents and students, and encourage them to send a delegation to support this effort.

If you would like more information about arranging at special tour for your school or about the event, please e-mail amanda@familyfoundation.org or call 804-343-0010. To register online, click here.

Your Constitutional Protections At Stake Tomorrow

The pace of the General Assembly moves very fast, especially during the short session when committee hearings are compressed into a shorter period. Just this morning we were notified that four important proposed constitutional amendments, passed last week by the House, already are scheduled for tomorrow morning in a Senate Privileges and Elections sub-committee. Usually, there is at least a day or two respite and time to regroup right before or after "crossover," but the pipeline is full of bills and the legislation continues to flow. We need your urgent help to contact members of the sub-committee and ask them to vote for these important constitutional protections. Only four votes stand in the way killing these highly popular and needed measures without the full debate of the Senate, much less the full committee. So, your action is needed now.

HJ 615, patroned by Delegate Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico) and Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas), would safeguard your tax dollars by banning tax and fee increases in the budget bill. The budget bill is supposed to be a spending bill only. But in recent years, governors and legislators have stuck tax and fee increases in it (such as when Mark Warner pushed through his infamous tax increase). If those revenues are needed, delegates and senators should have the courage to vote on tax increases separately, up or down, not buried in a must-pass budget with deadline pressure to approve so that state government can continue to function.

HJ 539, patroned by Delegate Mark Cole (R-88, Spotsylvania), is another important safeguard to your hard-earned tax dollars. It would require a three-fifths super majority vote of the General Assembly to raise state taxes and the same super majority for your city, town or county governing body to raise local taxes.

HJ 593, patroned by Delegate Bill Carrico (R-5, Galax), would protect Virginians' right of religious expression by allowing prayer and the recognition of religious beliefs, heritage and traditions on public property, including public schools. This will safeguard from court action, for example, students who offer prayers at school assemblies.

HJ 614, patroned by Delegate Tag Greason (R-32, Potomac Falls) would allow the General Assembly to provide for loans and grants to, or on behalf of, candidates for the military chaplaincy who attend in-state nonprofit institutions of higher education whose primary purpose is to provide religious training or theological education.

Urgent action is needed since the sub-committee meets tomorrow! If these resolutions die in sub-committee, the opportunity to incorporate them into the Virginia Constitution will be set back three more years. Contact the members and ask they vote for HJ 615, HJ 539, HJ 593 and HJ 614 tomorrow morning in Senate Privileges and Elections sub-committee.

American Idiots

Explaining away the performance gap between American public school students and the rest of the world is almost its own industry. Regardless of the measure, the taxpayer propped up education establishment has more excuses than your average high school kid coming in after curfew. Unfortunately for the defenders of the status quo, the data continues to expose the truth. Most American children are being left behind.

In a fascinating article in December's The Atlantic, several economists compared American students by state with students from other countries, side by side. The results make one want to send the teachers unions to the principal's office (except they're in on it, too).

According to the study, when it comes to comparing student proficiency in math, the only colony to even be able to sniff the Top 10 is Massachusetts, coming in at number 17. Virginia is farther down the list, sandwiched between those academic powerhouses Norway and Ireland.

But that's ok, because according to polling done last year at this time, a majority of Virginians "feel" that Virginia's public schools are doing a good or excellent job. Which they are. Compared to say, Lithuania. Or Iowa.

It is likely that this study, too, will be dismissed by the nation's education class. After all, one of the authors of the study, using science, has concluded that "more money does not tend to lead to better results; small class sizes do not tend to improve learning."

Next thing you know he'll start telling us that parents know better about how and where their kids should be educated.

In the meantime, there will no doubt be continued demands for more money to be poured into education system so we can "keep up with the rest of the world" and "compete in the global economy."

And get reelected.

New Jersey: A Nice Place For Education Reform

There's an old saying that, "New Jersey is a nice place to be from." Despite its reputation and the brunt of numerous jokes, New Jersey soon may be the place for cutting edge education reform. At least from an education freedom viewpoint, our friends to the north are getting closer to bringing education freedom and choice to families than we are here in Virginia. Earlier this month, the New Jersey Senate advanced a bill similar to legislation The Family Foundation advocates for here in Virginia that creates a tax credit for donations made to private scholarship foundations. The foundations then can give scholarships to students that meet certain eligibility criteria so that they can attend a school of their choice. Unflattering, and deceptively called a "voucher" by opponents and the mainstream media, these scholarship programs have seen great success in several places, from Florida to Pennsylvania.

The fact that New Jersey is attempting to join the growing list of states that offer this education freedom while Virginia continues to stall shows just how quickly we are falling behind more modern education movements in other states. The legislation in New Jersey faced the opposition of the powerful New Jersey Education Association (sister to our own anti-reform, left-wing Virginia Education Association). But through the leadership of Governor Chris Christie and several Democrat legislators, including a key committee chairman, the bill is advancing — complete with the drama of the Senate committee moving its meeting outside the capitol so that thousands of school choice advocates holding a rally could hear the debate.

Opposition to education reform, such as scholarship programs, continue to be stuck in the past. African-American leaders and legislators all over the country are beginning to reject the typical accusations that these tax credits will "drain money from public schools" or reestablish segregation. Even the Newark Star-Ledger, which has one of the most liberal editorial boards in the nation, has endorsed the tax credit bill.

In fact, the bill introduced by Delegate Jimmie Massie (R-72, Henrico) during this year’s legislative session would have saved the state and local governments money while reducing class sizes (children leaving for private schools), thereby improving teacher-student ratios, something the education establishment claims it wants. Far from hurting low-income families in urban areas, the private-aid scholarship program the bill would establish would provide them a way out of failing schools that are not meeting their needs nor preparing them to be able to compete in a global economy.

Momentum for school choice is growing. Successful programs in Florida, Arizona and other states are improving education outcomes for many children, despite efforts to block them. In the Arizona case, the U.S. Supreme Court will review a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision declaring education freedom is unconstitutional. The Ninth Circuit is the most overturned appeals court in the nation and is infamous for its overtly radical decisions. Stay tuned. There will be a lot of action in on this important matter in New Jersey, Arizona and even here in Virginia.

Virginia News Stand: March 22, 2010

Annotations & Elucidations Day One Of Amerika? Or The First Day Of Revolution Two?

The News Stand has returned. Forgive us for its absence, but a little thing called General Assembly session kind of got in the way. Our Communications Department was kind of preoccupied. Today, of course, is quite the time to return. There's not much to add to the major news story of our time — the federal government's takeover of our health care system. We have some excellent commentary below. But I do want to add one ironic historical note, a reminder from our friend Norman Leahy at Tertium Quids: Today is the day in 1765 that the British Parliament passed The Stamp Act. We all know what that precipitated. Started here in Virginia, too. Parallels?

News

McDonnell to soon name panels on jobs, government reform, higher education (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Danville debate draws 7 who hope to challenge Perriello (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Democrats to gather in Richmond for low-key Jefferson-Jackson dinner (Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog)

Cuccinelli says Va. will sue over health-care bill (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

National News

Abortion compromise doesn't satisfy critics (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Insurers, doctor-owned hospitals get late help (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Commentary

American People Say 'No' While Democrats Say 'Yes We Can' (Bobby Eberle/GOPUSA.com)

Health Plan Means Bigger Deficits and Higher Taxes (Michael Barrone/GOPUSA.com)

The Goal is Control (Henry Lamb/GOPUSA.com)

Doctors and Health Care Reform (Harris Sherline/GOPUSA.com)

'Don't Tread On Me' Was More Than A Slogan (Thomas D. Segel/GOPUSA.com)

The 'Historic' Health Care Bill that Americans Don't Want (Bobby Eberle/GOPUSA.com)

Ok . . . Let's Get Serious About Cutting Spending (Bobby Eberle/GOPUSA.com)

Unions, Public Schools and Minority Kids (Star Parker/GOPUSA.com)

If ObamaCare Is Based On ObamaMath, No Wonder The Plan Is A Disaster!

So, you may have heard the Smartest President Ever yesterday (Frugal Cafe) give his latest health care takeover pep talk, or at least some sound bytes. You might not have heard this one because it doesn't exactly flatter our president. It's funny how his left-wing media allies play only certain parts of the speech over and over again. I guess they think it makes him look smart . . . like when he said there were 57 states — oops! They don't show that often, er, ever. That's why we have YouTube. But yesterday, this mathematically challenged president said if his health care takeover plan is passed, employers could save "3,000 percent" on their health care premiums and give their employees "a raise." Why, he thinks of it all, doesn't he?

Ummm, let me get this straight Mr. President: Even if employers wouldn't have to pay any health care costs, according to my private school education (don't know about yours), that would max out to a 100 percent savings. We all know public schools are having a tough time of it, sir, but man, you're giving private schools a bad name, too!

No wonder the bill before Congress is so bad. If it's based on ObamaMath, can ObamaCare really do what he says it can? Not at all.

 

Imagine if Dan Quayle or W had said this: Late night comedic material for a month. Seriously, how well does he understand his own bill?

General Assembly Must Tame Its Appetite For Tax And "Fee" Increases

Yesterday, we asked you to contact your delegates and senators and urge them to support the three vital budget amendments that ban state funding for the partisan political organization Planned Parenthood, as well as the ones that ban embryonic stem cell research (which has not produced one medical advance) and elective abortions (Virginia funded 322 such abortions in 2006-2007). Today, we urge you to take action on the other side of the ledger. While we want to hold government spending to essential core services that fit the proper role of government — and eliminate excessive spending, especially for nefarious groups and causes — we also must make clear to our representatives that we are over taxed. In their work to close the $4 billion state budget deficit, our senators and delegates must know that they cannot bridge that gap on the backs of families, individuals and businesses who are struggling in this very tough economy.

The truth of the matter is that we have a "spending surplus" — not a deficit from a lack of revenue. In fact, if lawmakers are so concerned about the deficit, they should look at themselves before they do the taxpayers. The General Assembly has doubled spending in the Virginia budget over the last 10 years, several times the rates of inflation and population growth combined! But those facts don’t get in the way of special interest, big-government lobbyists who, unfortunately, have a lot of influence at the capitol. They will use every weapon in their arsenal to jack up taxes to pay for their pet projects and programs.

One weapon is the myth that public education is getting cut to the bone and that tax increases are necessary "for the children." However, spending on K-12 education in Virginia has increased by 60 percent over the last 10 years while enrollment in public schools has increased only 7.2 percent; and 60 percent of the budget is dedicated to education and health care. But the Senate (SB 30) and House (HB 30) budgets have $300 million and $76 million in tax and fee increases, respectively. When does it end?

The Senate budget increases the 911 "fee" on every cel phone and landline to pay for 911 centers. Two problems: The increased revenue won’t go to 911 centers and the "fee" as the Senate would have you believe, is defined as a tax in the Code of Virginia — and that’s just the beginning of what lawmakers want to do to you.

It’s time for lawmakers to do what Virginia families and job creators are doing — cut expenses! We can’t make money appear out of nowhere and the General Assembly shouldn’t try. Instead, it should tame its unabated appetite for hard-earned tax payer income.

Please contact your delegate and senator immediately and urge them to reject increased taxes and fees on Virginia families, individuals and businesses in the new budget .

If you know who they are, you can get their contact info here for delegates and here for senators. If you don’t know who your delegate and senator are, click here.

Education Freedom = Racism? Some Senate Dems Say Yes, Others Remain Silent

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: district29@senate.virginia.gov, (804) 698-7529

Senator Roscoe Reynolds: district20@senate.virginia.gov, (804) 698-7520

Senator Edd Houck: district17@senate.virginia.gov, (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.

Could Virginia Produce The Next Tim Tebow? Not Now, According To Virginia Law.

Is there a Tim Tebow lurking somewhere in Virginia that public schools fear? Must be. The Heisman Trophy winner and national champion quarterback from the University of Florida, Tim Tebow is widely known for his strong faith and incredible career as a college football player. Tebow was allowed to participate in Florida public school sports as a home school student because Florida treats home school students differently than does Virginia.

Currently in the Commonwealth, home schoolers are prohibited from participating in public interscholastic sports programs. But three members of the House of Delegates are hoping to end this discrimination and have introduced bills being heard tomorrow morning in House Education sub-committee. Delegate Bill Carrico (R-5, Independence), Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Charlottesville) and Delegate Dave Nutter (R-7, Christiansburg) will each present similar bills (HB 70, HB 926, HB 1001) tomorrow morning that would allow home schoolers in Virginia to participate in public interscholastic sports programs.

Virginia’s public school leviathan continues to hold the line that any child being home schooled should be treated as second-class citizens. Their potential is apparently considered a threat to public schools. The families of home school students pay the same taxes as others that support public schools yet they are banned from taking part in activities they help to subsidize.

Help end this discrimination. Contact members of the House Education Students and Daycare Sub-committee (click here) and urge them to vote for these bills.

If Charter Schools Make No Difference, Why The 40,000 Waiting List In New York?

Educrats and assorted opponents of school choice and competition love to point to statistics that show student achievement in charter schools is no greater than in government-run schools. Therefore, they demand that we stop "taking away resources" from public schools. (First, can we stop using the euphemism "resources"? It's taxpayer money, for Pete's sake! It doesn't come from the ground or trees or the river, where real, actual, put-to-use resources come from.)

Second, we know what they say about statistics. Third, and most important, if charter schools are so bad or indifferent, why do so many parents and students want in? In New York alone, there is a waiting list of 40,000 students trying to escape the government-run monopoly!

Unfortunately, New York, as does Virginia, has a cap on the amount of charter schools. Different formula, same result — restricting competition and choice as well as the variety of teaching methods and environments. The only thing it does produce is more student failure and teacher inadequacy. But there is hope for New York. Its Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch told Maura Walz of the blog Gotham Schools that she favors raising the charter school cap. There is hope in Virginia as well, since Governor-elect Bob McDonnell, his running mates Lt. Governor Bill Bolling and Attorney General-elect Ken Cuccinelli, and the increased GOP majority in the House of Delegates favor more school competition. With McDonnell's giant mandate, there are rumors of some big idea education reform legislation that may be proposed during the upcoming session of the General Assembly. After all, even President Barack Obama is in the odd position of being on McDonnell's side on this issue. 

For a good briefing on the actual value of charter schools, here's part one of an interview with Caroline Hoxby, Ph.D., the Scott and Donya Bommer Professor of Economics at Stanford University, conducted by the Show-Me Institute in May (for the other three parts, click on this YouTube link and the the "more info" link on the right):

If charter schools are so bad, why are is there a waiting list of 40,000 students in New York?

Coloring "Yes" And "No" In Virginia Public Schools

The Bible is an acceptable source for young people to look to for greater educational understanding? Yes! Educating young people in sexual abstinence and securing their physical health as well as emotional and relational well being as a result. No!

These answers colorfully highlight the great juxtaposition of worldviews that currently are playing out in America today. However, don’t think for a moment, as many in the punditry class stress, that the "Yes" answer is a red state exclusive, while the "No" answer is a blue state domain. Both answers were given right here in The Old Dominion recently by people elected to guide the education of our children.

On Tuesday, November 10, the Chesterfield County School Board voted unanimously to allow county high schools, as one supporter said, "to teach the Bible as an elective from an academic perspective."

On the other hand, on Tuesday, November 17, (as we wrote here), the Richmond Times- Dispatch reported this about a Henrico County high school:

The scheduling of an abstinence-only speaker today at Douglas Freeman High School has drawn protests from some teachers, an abortion-rights organization, and a gay and lesbian education network. (The speaker's engagement was upheld by the principle and school district, thankfully.)

Simply put, this isn’t a red versus blue thing. These issues are the very seasonably unfashionable colors of black and white. Some in our commonwealth are working to stay the forces of secular progressivism and others are looking to promote it. Two questions face each of us:

Am I managing to see the actual worldview that the children in my public school district are being taught?

And

Am I encouraging those leaders who stand up for truth in spite of the criticism?

If your children attend public schools, please take some time to uncover what dominant worldview they are being taught. Find out what they are being told Yes! and No! to. From that color spectrum, the answers will quickly emerge from a hazy purple to a very poignant "Yes" or "No."

Education Study Provides More Ammunition For Much Needed Reform

Here are more telling details from the education choice polling data and study of which we were a party and released yesterday: Paul DiPerna, research director for The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, wrote in his study that the research indicates:

a major disconnect between Virginia's schooling preferences and actual school enrollments. ... As in other states where we have surveyed, the implication of these results is that Virginia does not have a sufficient school choice system in place to match parents' schooling preferences. (See the entire report here.)

The survey polled 1,203 likely voters and was conducted from October 1-4. The margin of error was plus or minus 2.8 percent points. (See today's Richmond Times-Dispatch for coverage of yesterday's study release news conference.) The results illustrate the vast support in Virginia for a program of income tax credits for donations to scholarship foundations that, in turn, provide funds to qualifying students to attend a school of their choice instead of an assigned public school.

Of course, common sense and public opinion never guarantee a thing, and this issue is living proof — for years the General Assembly has refused to pass legislation to enable such foundations to fully unleash their potential to provide more students better education options. But the results of this study will be a much needed resupply of ammunition that we and several partner organizations will use this coming session and beyond. For example:

» 65 percent of Virginians support tax-credit scholarships, while only 22 percent oppose.

» 57 percent of Virginians favor school vouchers, while only 35 percent oppose.

Even when broken down by party affiliation, Virginians strongly support tax-credit scholarships and vouchers:

» 64 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of Republicans and 66 percent of independents support tax-credit scholarships.

» 53 percent of Democrats, 67 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of independents support school vouchers.

» 81 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of independents support special needs school vouchers.

Additionally, the favor-oppose margins are large among the parties:

» On tax-credit scholarships, it's +43 among Democrats, +46 among Republicans and +44 among independents.

» On school vouchers, it's +15 among Democrats, +39 among Republicans and +22 among independents.

» On special needs school vouchers, it's +67 among Democrats, +64 among Republicans and +60 among independents.

Education reform will be an issue to watch this session. With school choice a major issue in the recent campaign and a new philosophy at the helm of state government, sound ideas, such as those Virginians overwhelmingly support in this study, may have their best chance in years to get a much needed foothold in Virginia's education system.