Having won on school choice, Stanley now seeks to surrender

The General Assembly finally achieved a real breakthrough on school choice with the passage of an education tax credit bill that, in past years, was routinely killed in the Senate Finance committee. The bill only made it out of the Senate this year thanks to Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling’s tie-breaking vote on the floor.

Now, one of the Senate Republican backers of the measure wants the Governor to water it down:

Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County, said he will ask McDonnell to amend the legislation (SB 131) to narrow eligibility for the scholarships to students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches in the state’s public schools. The final version of the bill passed by the General Assembly sets eligibility at 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or $69,150 for a family of four.

“That doesn’t work,” Stanley said in an interview Friday. “Those grants and scholarships can be used as gap scholarships for a kid that’s got 80 percent of his [tuition] paid because his family can pay 80 percent and needs 20 percent. That’s not what this bill was intended to do, so I’m going to ask the governor to make an amendment to that.”

This is ridiculous.

The final version of the bill has drawn the ire of Senate Democrats, which was to be expected. But the Republicans won the fight and now Stanley wants to surrender.

This bill has its flaws — it falls well-short of universal school choice. It carries a sunset provision. And the amount of money that can be distributed each year is capped. And now Stanley wants to make an already limited bill even more so.

McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin is quoted as saying “‘We strongly support this bill and its successful implementation.'” That’s heartening to read. And here’s hoping Gov. McDonnell, who has long-supported educational reforms, sticks with the original bill and ignores Stanley’s defeatism.

Virginia should be moving aggressively forward on school choice, not backward. And self-styled conservative Republicans should never willingly cede the bit of ground that so many others fought for years to gain.

  • Wholeheartedly agree… hope the Governor respects the will of the General Assembly rather than last-minute revisionism.

    There’s gotta be more to the story on this. Stanley just needs to stick to his guns and let the chips fall where they may. God forbid some unintended GOOD should come from legislation (for a change).

  • Mike Barrett

    In a sense, I hope the amendment fails as well. I want voters next time to fully understand that this is a flagrant attempt by the republicans to rob the public schools of resources, so they don’t perform well, and then they can dismantle the public schools in favor of private ones.

    That is what they want, and until those who value the contribution of public schools, and the universal education they provide to all who choose to attend, the republicans will keep chipping away, as they have done to transportation, until they destroy public education just as they have destroyed transportation infrastructure by a policy of neglect.

    Make no mistake about it. Republicans are corporatists who want their corporate buddies to get the business of public education so they can run the schools for profit. Then, some will be excluded; others not. Let’s see how you like them apples.

  • Fat Dave

    This bill will help my next-door neighbors, one of whom is a public high school teacher, to continue to send their daughter to a Lutheran school. I’m all for letting parents have a modicum of choice in education. Our public school system is broken because of a perfect storm of Democrats beholden to the VEA, Republicans who’ve supported No Child Left Behind and SOLs, and parents and the media who have destroyed the ability of teachers to maintain discipline in their classrooms. Please let the bright kids who have conscientious parents escape from these broken public schools.

  • Jim Wilson

    Sure would be nice to have a choice where you could send your kids to school.The wealthy already have the option to send their kids to better schools.

  • Mike Barrett

    Of course, parents already have a choice. It is our obligation as taxpayers to provide public schools for all. If parents don’t want to send their children there, private education is available elsewhere to them at their expense.

    This legislation to allow corporate tax credits is an underhanded way to reduce support for public schools. It is designed to do what Grover Norquist has said, that is, to cut the arms and legs off government so it can be drowned in a bathtub.

    Republican hatred of governace has implications that are as bad for K-12 education as they have been for colleges and universities and for transportation. As long as republicans can frame the argument simply as cost avoidance, they win. However, increasingly the effect of their strategy is becoming obvious to voters as school funding gets cut, tuition to colleges rises out of sight, and roads crumble, tunnels flood, and bridges are abandoned.

    Further, since women have a particular connection to schools for their children, this is just further proof that republicans don’t care about independent women with school age children.

  • Jim Wilson

    Like I said the rich have a choice now.

  • Mark Cernak

    Corporations get tax credits and that takes away from education how? The department of educations has a budget of 76 Billion this year! Why is it that the Obamas, Clintions, and numerous other Democrats in DC put their children in priviate schools? Because they know especially in DC how bad the schools are and they are not going there. But since Obama became president with all the spending he has done he cut funds so children in the bad schools in DC can’t get out of the schools! The had opportunities to escape but no more. The President and others know that non-government schools are better just look where their children go to school. And why is it that on the whole government school teachers make alot more money than non-government school teachers? And why do non-government schools produce a better product!

  • bc

    “Robbing the public schools of resources”…….public schools have been ruined by progressives and NEA. They no longer teach, they indoctrinate. Put the liberty of choice back into the hands of taxpayers. Those in the “poverty class” (proggies are all about labeling ) should no longer be forced to suffer failed inner city schools that were created by the hands of democrat politicians.

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