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Posted at 5:35 PM ET, 02/10/2011

School choice supporters rally at Virginia Capitol

By Fredrick Kunkle

About 200 people met at the Bell Tower on Virginia's Capitol Square on Thursday to rally support for a bill that would grant new tax breaks to corporations that gave scholarships for poor children to attend private school.

The measure is modeled after similar programs in Florida and Pennsylvania. Among the speakers were Education Secretary Gerard Robinson, lawmakers, and Alberta Wilson, a Philadelphia native who founded a scholarship organization to help children attend private schools.

"Public education, to be true to the public, must educate the public however it chooses," Wilson, who lives in Chesapeake, told the crowd, which included many school children from religious and secular private schools. Virginia's Family Foundation also backs the bill.

The House of Delegates has passed a bill, HB2314, sponsored by Del. Jimmie Massie (R-Henrico), that would allow corporations to receive a 70-percent tax credit for contributions to approved scholarship foundations that would provide tuition assistance to indigent students.

The measure, which has been characterized as a de facto voucher program, would cap the state's tax credits at $25 million and provide scholarships only to children whose family income makes them eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunches. The House passed the bill 54-45 on Tuesday. Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) sponsored a similar bill that died in committee.

The Virginia Education Association, the Virginia PTA, the Virginia Association of School Superintendents and the Virginia School Boards Association oppose the measure, saying the state should focus on restoring funding to its public schools before giving tax breaks to corporations to help children attend private school.

Critics also say the program will harm public schools by inducing some of the best students to leave them, and that the initiative, although billed as a way of helping poor children, would almost certainly lead to pressure to broaden the program.

By Fredrick Kunkle  | February 10, 2011; 5:35 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly 2011  
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these unions and the "critics" are well addressed by Walter Williams who writes: "That's a vision that differs little from one that says that no black child's education should be improved unless we can improve the education of all black children." in his Feb 2column

Posted by: BruceFairfax | February 11, 2011 8:17 AM | Report abuse

private religious schools that indoctrinate their students to be anti-science and anti-thinking deserve to fail and shouldnt get any help from the taxpayers at all.
why should my tax dollars go to some flat-earth charlatan that preachs to children that Jesus rode a dinosaur and public school children are going to burn in hell?

Public funds should go to public schools, period.

these corporate tax credits are just a backdoor way of proping up these failing backwards schools that are a great deservice to those children unlucky enough to be sent to.

Posted by: MarilynManson | February 11, 2011 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Virginia needs revenue.

If these "altruistic" corporations are intent to fund scholarships, they are free to do so, but not at the expense of the public coffers.

Posted by: RogerRamjet2 | February 11, 2011 10:30 AM | Report abuse

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