North Carolina ready to roll out school voucher program for low-income students

Sep 6, 2013 by

RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina’s General Assembly recently set aside millions of education dollars to provide private school vouchers for students from low-income families.

The vouchers, known as Opportunity Scholarships, will provide up to $4,200 per child for low-income families to spend on tuition and fees at private schools they couldn’t previously afford, the Fayetteville Observer reports.

The North Carolina Association of Educators, however, is already working to repeal the scholarships and plans to sue the state over the voucher program and other education reforms.

“We are thoroughly investigating what our legal options are,” association president Rodney Ellis told the Observer. “Vouchers have been challenged in other states, and it will be challenged here.”

The teachers association, like teachers unions in other states, is concerned about money, not academics. It operates on dues from its members, and the more students who attend private schools, the less demand there is for NCAE teachers, since most private schools don’t hire teachers who are members of the organization.

That means less revenue for the NCAE. But private school vouchers are a winning proposition for virtually everyone else involved in education.

The voucher money will allow parents to remove their children from struggling public schools and enroll them in schools with more productive learning environments. Taxpayers will save substantial cash for each student who participates in the voucher program, because there’s a $4,000 gap between the cost of each voucher and what the state typically sends to local public schools for each student.

In a broader sense, vouchers create healthy competition between private and public schools, which pushes all schools to improve as much as possible.

The real value in vouchers, though, is in academic achievement. It’s no secret private school students routinely outperform their peers in public schools.

Darrell Allison, president of North Carolina’s Parents for Educational Freedom, told the Observer quality private schools have long been available to more affluent families and the voucher program simply extends that privilege to the state’s less fortunate.

“We have not seen a real revolutionary action to remedy the problem” with failing public schools, Allison said. “ … We need to continue to work with our public school system. The vast majority of families will continue to send children to public schools. But we have some holes in public education and we should not tell poor families to wait until we get it right.”

The General Assembly apparently recognizes the significant advantages offered by vouchers, which we suspect is why it set aside $10 million from the state education budget this year – and an additional $40 million next year – to provide Opportunity Scholarships.

Roughly 2,500 students will qualify for vouchers when they’re available next school year, assuming the NCAE’s selfish legal action doesn’t derail the program.

Allison told the Observer the Opportunity Scholarship program amounts to less than .1 percent of North Carolina’s $21 billion general fund.

North Carolina ready to roll out school voucher program for low-income students – powered by Education Action Group Foundation, Inc..

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