Speaking of education choice, yesterday was our annual lobby day. This year’s theme was education choice and we added a rally in Capitol Square as well. The media attention was excellent. Starting the day was an interview on WRVA’s Richmond’s Morning News With Jimmy Barrett, but with an adversarial guest host, Juan Conde of WRIC-TV, sitting in for the decidedly conservative Mr. Barrett. Victoria Cobb, our president, took it all in stride, even when Mr. Conde misunderstood, shall we say, the issue, and claimed HB 2314, if passed, would give “our” money to businesses! The Washington Post also covered the rally on its Virginia Politics Blog, and a Google search reveals publications from The India Times to Forbes picked up the Post’s post, as well as various state television and print media.
Archive for February 11th, 2011
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.
This Tuesday afternoon, the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee will consider an important constitutional amendment that will bring much needed reform to Virginia’s budgeting process, slow down tax and fee increases, and bring some transparency to the way our lawmakers raise and spend our hard earned tax dollars.
HJ 615, patroned by Delegates Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico) and Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas), will safeguard our tax dollars by banning tax and fee increases, as well as banning the termination of tax credits, in the budget bill. The budget bill is supposed to be a spending bill only. But in recent years, governors and legislators of both parties have stuck tax and fee increases in it (such as when Mark Warner pushed through his infamous tax increase). The budget bill, which contains more than $70 billion, is given to lawmakers on the last day of session and they only have a few hours to digest it. It is nearly impossible to pick out tax increases of any type.
This resolution passed the House 80-15. If it passes the Senate this year and both chambers again next year, Virginia voters will vote on it in November 2012. But we must start with a positive committee vote Tuesday so it can get to the Senate floor.
If the General Assembly needs more revenue to fund its projects and programs, it should have the courage to propose and vote on ending tax credits and increasing taxes and fees separately, up or down, on the record. Increases in our tax burden should not buried in a must-pass budget with deadline pressure to approve so that state government can continue to function. But with transparent, separate tax increase bills and up-and-down on-the-record votes, we doubt lawmakers will be in any hurry to raise our taxes. So, this not only is a reform of the budget process that adds transparency, it’s a step toward reducing the size of government.
This resolution received a positive vote in sub-committee this week (5-1 with one abstention), but some of the senators who voted for it and the abstention expressed reservations and said they may still change their vote in full committee. Your voice is crucial to ensuring this much needed open government resolution passes so that we voters eventually get a chance to pass our own judgment on it.