Private School Scholarship Funds

Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling cast another party-line vote—this time to break a tie on one of the bills in Governor McDonnell’s education agenda.  The legislation provides tax credits for businesses that contribute to a private-school scholarship fund.   The Senators debated whether or not it would provide an unfair advantage to one segment of the population.

Under the bill, businesses could receive tax credits for donating to nonprofit groups that provide education-improvement scholarships. Those would enable students who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunches to attend nonpublic schools. Senator Walter Stosch argued that private institutions can meet student educational needs where public schools fall short.

“I’m absolutely convinced it is the step up for a lot of young kids who are either disabled or poor, who would have no other choice without something like this,” said Stosch.

But some argued that it violates the state constitution by drawing funding from public schools. Senator Janet Howell said rather than abandoning public schools, the state needs to reinvest and bring them up to the same standards that helped her family overcome great challenges and succeed.

“If this were a sincere effort to help children, there would be tax credits as well for corporations who are giving to public foundations to public schools,” said Howell.

The tax credit is 65% of the amount donated with a $25-million state cap.  The law would expire in three years.

–Tommie McNeil


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