Thursday, January 29, 2009

School choice defeated in State Senate

From Victoria Cobb at the Family Foundation....

This morning, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) introduced his school choice bill, SB 1221 in front of the Senate Finance Committee. Senator Obenshain presented the committee, not just with the facts as to how tuition tax credits save the state money, satisfy parents and increase the amount of funds per child who remain in public school, but he also helped them understand the momentum on this issue around the country.

Highlighting programs in Arizona, DC, Florida and elsewhere, Senator Obenshain emphasized the bipartisan nature of the national support for this type of reform. In particular, he outlined the similarities between his bill and the tuition scholarship program in Pennsylvania, specifically noting that Pennsylvania’s program has been so successful that its Democrat governor pushed for it to be expanded.

After Senator Obenshain’s presentation, Chris Freund of The Family Foundation presented the committee with the data from the poll we commissioned in partnership with the Virginia Catholic Conference just last month. Knowing that many legislators will only respond to grassroots pressure and the overwhelming popularity of school choice, instead of the merits of the concept, our organization felt it necessary to gather data from a reputable source to whelm as a tool in this battle. Thank you for your financial support that made this poll possible!

Our December 2008 Mason Dixon poll found that:

69 percent of Virginians support tax credit proposals
62 percent supported it in Hampton Roads
70 percent in Northern Virginia
74 percent in Southside and Southwest Virginia

A large majority of both whites and African Americans support tax credits

Despite this support, the Senate Finance Committee defeated SB 1221 in their usual weak manner. . . no one made a motion to support or defeat the bill. This method is used by legislators when they fear public scrutiny for their vote. Without a motion, they cannot be held accountable for a vote on this policy proposal. At The Family Foundation, we hold every legislator who did not make a motion responsible for defeating school choice.

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