students

Student Rights Bill Goes To Governor!

The Senate of Virginia yesterday passed a priority for The Family Foundation, legislation that protects the free association rights of students on public college campuses. HB 1617, patroned by Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock), ensures that religious and political organizations will not be discriminated against because of their beliefs and values. The bill passed 21-18 with several Democrats joining Republicans to pass the legislation. The bill already passed the House, so it is now on its way to Governor Bob McDonnell for his signature. Participating in groups and organizations with missions that match their religious or political beliefs is a longstanding tradition for college students. Unfortunately, in the name of "tolerance," a few universities in Virginia (and even more so around the country) have begun enacting the so-called "all-comers" policies, which prevent these groups from being able to set criteria for members and leaders. Under these policies, student groups recognized by the university, receiving funding from it or using campus facilities are prohibited from having any kind of requirement that members or leaders actually share the beliefs or believe in the mission of the group!

Opponents to the legislation claimed that the bill allows student groups to "discriminate" using "taxpayer funding" (never mind that many such clubs are funded by activity fees charged to the students in addition to their tuition). Such a position implies that simply choosing to freely associate with people of similar ideas and beliefs is inherently discriminatory. Free association is a foundational constitutional principle but, as we know, those kinds of freedoms are slowly being reduced. The win is so significant that even the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation (a bipartisan group of Congressmen) took notice.

The companion Senate legislation, SB 1074, patroned by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg), should be heard in the House Education Committee tomorrow.

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 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.

Does Obama Really Want To Cut Execs' Pay?

On the one hand, the Wall Street executives who are going to have their salaries cut from millions of dollars a year to no more than $200k should be happy. After all, Barack Obama promised no tax increases for those earning less than $250,000 a year, right? Sure! On the other hand, the president may want to reconsider. With tax revenue dropping like an offed mafioso's car a river, he may need that revenue. Better idea, Mr. President: Instead of cutting their pay 90 percent, let them keep them million-dollar salaries — then tax it at 90 percent. After all, you have to fund health care, right? Plus, the stimulus and free college education and end global warming and green jobs and  . . . .

But before you do, Mr. President, would you please find out if it's constitutional for the federal government to fire and set salaries of people in private business? If it is, then watch out students on federal loans. Next, you'll be told where you can go to college and what classes to take.