Legislation achieves a long-held dream

Published 9:52 pm Friday, July 6, 2012

By Dr. Alberta Wilson
Guest Columnist

After June 27, education in the commonwealth of Virginia no longer comes in a “one-size-fits-all” package. On that day, Gov. Bob McDonnell signed school choice legislation that now “levels the playing field.”

More than 460,000 low-income children in Virginia are now eligible to receive a scholarship to attend a school that best fits their needs. For instance, families earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty line — up to $69,150 per year for a family of four — can qualify to receive a scholarship to send their children to a school other than public.

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What does this historic enactment mean to Virginia? It means that these parents will be able to exercise true school choice. After all, parents are the stewards of their children. Now, parents can ensure that the education model they choose fits their child’s academic, social and emotional needs.

The Elijah House Academy in Richmond was “standing room only” for the ceremonial signing of this legislation. The sponsors of the companion bills were Delegate Jimmie Massie (R-72, Henrico), Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg), and Sen. Bill Stanley (R-20, Moneta).

Decades of hard work on the part of our legislators, various communities of faith, the business community, private school organizations and citizens had finally paid off.

I greeted the governor at the signing with a hearty, “You did it!” His response was, “No. You did it, I just signed it.”

The governor, as a junior delegate, some 20 years ago, had actually been involved, even then, in sponsoring resolutions that would one day lead to this historic occasion. Many folks laid aside both political and religious preferences to champion the one cause — that of assisting Virginia’s children in securing a quality education.

Not only will the students of low-income families benefit, but this historic program will also make scholarships available to disabled students. The scholarship program is capped at $25 million and has a sunset of five years. Proponents of the program now have the task of ensuring its sustainability, to guarantee its renewal at the end of the sunset, as well as the program’s expansion.

All in all, the state stands to save money. What it loses in state tax revenue will be significantly less than the amount the state would have spent on education if the same students were in public schools.

Corporations and individuals contributing to the scholarship program will earn a 65-percent tax credit on the donation made. This scholarship program will also allow businesses to be intentional about assisting in the educational process of Virginia’s children. It is a win/win for all involved.

Faith First Educational Assistance Corporation, whose office is located in Suffolk, Virginia, has distributed scholarships to children in Christian schools (Pre-K through 12th grades) in the commonwealth of Virginia since the fall of 2006. Now, it looks to substantially increase the amount of families it will be able to help as a result of this program.

No longer will families have to settle for a “one-size-fits-all” education in Virginia. Because of faithful advocates, our children can now have an education tailored to their particular educational needs.

If you are a donor and desire a 65-percent tax credit for participating in this program, or if you are a parent and would like further information, please contact me right away.

 

Dr. Alberta Wilson is the founder and CEO of the nonprofit Faith First Educational Assistance Corp. Contact her at a.wilson@faithschoice.org or by calling at 215-870-9454. Visit the organization online at www.faithschoice.org.