Virginia Governor Unveils 2012 Education Reform Agenda

McDonnell’s new initiatives seek to expand school choice for Commonwealth students

Washington, D.C. (January 10, 2012)—Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell yesterday announced an expansive education reform agenda for the 2012 legislative session that is poised to significantly expand educational options through creation of a scholarship tax credit program for the state’s low-income families.

The American Federation for Children—the nation’s voice for school choice—praised the governor’s plan, which places a strong emphasis on providing all children with educational opportunities, including  private school choice and robust charter and virtual school options.

McDonnell has long been a strong supporter of expanding educational options for children.  The scholarship tax credit program has also been championed in the legislature by Delegate Jimmie Massie and Senator Mark Obenshain in recent years.

“We’re grateful that Gov. McDonnell has included scholarship tax credits for children in low-income families in his 2012 legislative agenda.  The Governor and legislative supporters are putting children first by offering hope to thousands of struggling students throughout the Commonwealth,” said Betsy Devos, chairman of the American Federation for Children.  “The governor and legislative leaders have pledged to stand with parents and reformers to ensure that every child in Virginia has access to a quality education.  ”

Called “an effective choice” by the governor today, the scholarship tax credit program would allow businesses to donate money to non-profit organizations that provide scholarships to children from low-income families to attend the school of their parents’ choice.  Last year, legislation for a scholarship tax credit program passed the House 54-45 before failing in the Senate.

In addition to scholarship tax credits, yesterday’s education reform package focused on creating an “opportunity to learn agenda” through expanded charter and virtual school opportunities.  These initiatives include making it easier for charters to form and operate in the state, ensuring local school boards make unused buildings available to charter schools, clarifying the funding formula so that funding “follows the child,” and allowing additional accreditation options for virtual schools.

Governor McDonnell also pledged to focus on raising standards of college and workforce readiness, reducing mandates on local school districts, and enhancing teacher quality.

Virginia residents have expressed strong bipartisan support for school choice, with 64 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of Republicans, and 66 percent of Independents favoring creation of a scholarship tax credit program, according to a 2009 poll conducted by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.