Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Once again ... school choice on the line

Action alert from Victoria Cobb at the Family Foundation....

Last month, in a Mason Dixon poll commissioned by The Family Foundation and the Virginia Catholic Conference, Virginians once again voiced their strong support for education freedom. The poll found support for tax credits for donations to scholarship programs similar to those proposed in legislation patroned by Delegate Chris Saxman (R-20, Staunton) and Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) is an overwhelming 69 percent!

Yesterday morning, the House Finance committee voted to send Delegate Saxman’s school choice bill to another committee. Tomorrow, Senator Obenshain’s education freedom bill will be debated in a very hostile Senate Finance Committee.

Senator Obenshain’s SB 1221 (Educational Improvement Tax Credit) is similar to Delegate Saxman’s bill but with several additional provisions. SB 1221 would provide better education opportunities for many Virginia students by allowing for tax credits for corporate donations to student scholarship programs. Many private scholarship programs annually turn kids away simply because there are always far more applicants than can be accomodated and because there is no tax credit in the Commonwealth few scholarship programs exist. This bill will encourage more donations to these important programs and motivate the creation of additional scholarship programs.

The bill is modeled after legisaltion passed in Pennsylvania and used as a model in several other sates.

According to Senator Obenshain, “Eight years ago, then-Gov. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania championed a program of ‘Educational Improvement Tax Credits.’ Since that time, the program has been embraced and expanded by Democrats and Republicans alike, and the model has been replicated, with considerable success, in Florida, Arizona, Rhode Island, and elsewhere. Each program has its own unique features, but they share a common idea: corporations should be able to claim a substantial tax credit for contributing to K-12 scholarship organizations that provide families with educational choices not previously available to them.”

Besides higher caps on the tax credits and different provisions in which students can receive the scholarships, Senator Obenshain’s bill also includes a provision that public schools that lose students to private schools because of the scholarship programs would continue to receive at least 25 percent of the per-pupil funding that they would have received should the student have stayed.

In states where the program has been implemented it has seen extraordinary success, to the point of bipartisan support for expansion of the programs.

Unfortunately, the Senate Finance committee has regularly killed any and all attempts at expanding education opportunities for families in Virginia. It has routinely voted down similar bills.

But with new polling that shows an overwhelming number of Virginians support exactly the type of scholarship program that Senator Obenshain has introduced, the pressure on the committee is greater than ever. Still, we need you to voice your opinion today!

ACTION: Please contact members of the Senate Finance Committee IMMEDIATELY and urge them to support SB 1221, Educational Improvement Tax Credit!

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