Virginia Legislature Passes Statewide School Choice Bill

Mar 01, 2012, 09:00 ET from American Federation for Children

Scholarship tax credit plan will make Virginia 14th state with private school choice program

RICHMOND, Va., March 1, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Virginia House of Delegates yesterday passed legislation calling for the creation of a new scholarship tax credit program, sending a plan to the governor's desk that would make Virginia the 14th state nationally with a publicly funded private school choice program.

The American Federation for Children—the nation's voice for school choice—praised the bill's strong accountability measures, as well as Senator Mark Obenshain and Delegate Jimmie Massie, who shepherded the bill through their respective chambers.

Senate Bill 131, which passed the House today by a vote of 57-40, would create a scholarship tax credit program for children from low- and middle-income families.  The State Senate passed the bill last week, and Governor Bob McDonnell, a school choice supporter, is expected to sign a final version of the bill into law in the coming days.

Under the program, individuals and businesses can donate money to nonprofit scholarship organizations that grant scholarships to qualified students.  The program would have an annual cap of $25 million.

"This is an important step forward for Virginia families on the road to providing educational options to the families who need them most," said Betsy DeVos, chairman of the American Federation for Children.  "We applaud legislators for building upon the momentum of last year and continuing to expand school choice."

AFC invested heavily in legislative effort, working with local allies to develop and advance the bill. Though efforts have been pledged to try to fine-tune and improve upon the program's provisions, it represents a significant step forward in the national movement to expand educational options to all families.

In February, hundreds of parents, students, and advocates joined the Governor and state legislators at a rally at the state capitol to express their support for the creation of a scholarship tax credit program.

The plan would enact the first-ever private school choice program in Virginia.  There are currently 27 private school choice programs across the nation, 10 of which are scholarship tax credit programs. More than 210,000 students are benefiting from school choice programs this year, and nearly 130,000 of them are enrolled in scholarship tax credit programs.

SOURCE American Federation for Children