Senate passes private-school tax credit

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling cast the tie-breaking vote in the State Senate today pushing a bill that will provide for up to $25 million in tax credits for businesses that donate money to private schools.

The state tax credit is designed to encourage individuals and corporations to contribute to non-profit organizations who provide education improvement scholarships to students in low and middle income families, and to students with a qualifying disability in order for them to attend non-public elementary or secondary schools. 

The tax credit is equal to 65 percent of the money donated to a qualifying scholarship foundation.

“This legislation will be very helpful in providing meaningful educational choice for students in low- and middle-income families, who may not otherwise have the means to attend private or parochial schools,” Bolling said in a statement.

“While I continue to be a strong supporter of public education in Virginia, no child should feel trapped in a public school system that is not meeting their educational needs simply because their family does not have the money to send them a private or parochial school. By making these educational opportunities more available to students in low and middle income families, we will make certain that these children can get the education they need to succeed in life,” Bolling said.

Gov. Bob McDonnell heralded the passage of the legislation, which was a key item in his Opportunity to Learn education agenda.

“This legislation will increase the ability of nonprofit organizations to provide education improvement scholarships so low-income students or students with disabilities can attend the non-public school of their choice,” McDonnell said. “It is a common-sense measure that will spur private support in educating the leaders of tomorrow and will give students a new opportunity to learn the skills they need to be successful in the future.”

Democratic leaders in the General Assembly were critical of the move, citing the money already being directed from public education in the budget of McDonnell, a Republican.

“Money is not going to be saved by taking a few children out of the public schools and sending them to private schools. The cost of public schools — the administrators, the teachers and the overhead — are all still there. We would be taking $25 million from the general fund, which we use for education. This is an unfocused, ill-advised way to go,” said State Sen. David Marsden, D-Burke.

State Sen. John S. Edwards, D-Roanoke, said the legislation is “not about scholarships.”

“Senate Bill 131 is a tax credit, which is a giveaway that sends taxpayers money where taxpayers do not want their money to go. Every school district is screaming for funding from this commonwealth. This bill takes money that could go to public schools and gives it to private schools,” Edwards said.


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