Bill Expanding N.C. Private School Vouchers to All Kids Moves Forward in Senate (2023)

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A bill that would dramatically expand the Opportunity Scholarship program to all students regardless of their family’s income moved forward in the Senate on Wednesday.

The chamber’s committee on education gave the bill a favorable report. Next, the bill must go to the Senate appropriations committee.

Senate Bill 406, “Choose Your School, Choose Your Future,” was filed by Republicans last month. At the time, President Pro TemSen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said the bill would be the “largest expansion of school choice” since the state started theOpportunity Scholarship program10 years ago.

“Today’s a great day for kids – and that’s what this bill is about,” said Sen. Michael Lee, R-New Hanover, at a press conference before Wednesday’s education committee. “The Opportunity Scholarship, as we proposed, has no caps. So everyone that hears me today is eligible for the opportunity scholarship, as long as you live in North Carolina.”

The Opportunity Scholarship program currently helps families who make below a certain income level pay tuition and fees at qualifying nonpublic schools, according to the N.C. State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA), which administers the program. During the 2022-23 school year, 25,524 students received the scholarship.

SB406, if passed, would eliminate income eligibility requirements for the program, guaranteeing up to a 45% scholarship to all N.C. students. It also eliminates the requirement that a student needs to have previously attended a public school.

Supporters of the bill say it will guarantee school choice for all North Carolina families.

(Video) Florida House passes school voucher expansion bill

Others say the bill could pose a threat to overall funding for public schools and more importantly to enrollment.

As EdNC previously reported, inother stateswhere significant policy changes are implemented that could impact average daily membership (ADM), stabilization funds have been provided for districts. This bill does not appear to include such funding.

On Wednesday, the education committee approved the bill with two amendments – adding more funds to the program, and delaying the start of access to vouchers for all families to the 2024-25 school year.

Students will be awarded scholarships based on their free-and-reduced lunch status, Lee said. After prior recipients are awarded, at least 50% of the remaining funds must go to students who qualify for free or reduced lunch, the bill says.

Awards go up to $6,492 for the 2023-2024 school year, according to NCSEAA’s website. The projected average award is $5,600, Lee said.

Here is a look at the breakdown of award tiers proposed in the bill:

Bill Expanding N.C. Private School Vouchers to All Kids Moves Forward in Senate (1)

And here is a breakdown of the increased funding to the Opportunity Scholarship Grant Fund Reserve outlined in the revised bill:

Bill Expanding N.C. Private School Vouchers to All Kids Moves Forward in Senate (2)
(Video) More School Choice & Locke Goes to the Movies

In addition to expanding Opportunity Scholarships, SB406 also requires local school boards to create a three-year graduation track for high school students. Students who opt for that track – and who also seek a degree, diploma, or certificate at an eligible postsecondary institution – will be eligible for “early graduate scholarships” based on financial need.

‘Backpack funding’

Last week, more than 200 bills were filed at the General Assembly – many of them education related. Several of those bills involved the expansion of school choice.

Last Tuesday, Rep. Tricia Cotham filed the House companion bill for “Choose Your School, Choose Your Future.” Cotham, a former educator and assistant principal who was elected as a Democrat in Mecklenburg, announced her switchto the Republican party earlier this month.The move gave Republicans a veto-proof majority in the state legislature.

On Wednesday, Cotham said the bill “is about families being able to make the best decisions for their child.”

“I started off really anti-school choice for a while when I first entered the General Assembly,” Cotham said at the press conference.

Then, she said on Wednesday, she started thinking about where her own children would go to school. Eventually, she opted for her son to attend a private school.

“That’s where my policy really started to change,” she said. “Because as a policymaker and as a mom, I’m also not a hypocrite. I do believe that as policymakers and legislators, if we have the ability to send our children to a private school or to a charter, then we cannot say to others, well, you can’t.”

SB665, whichwould also allow homeschooled students to receive the vouchers, was also filed this month.

On Wednesday, all public speakers voiced support for the expansion of the program, including parents and a student from private school. There were no public speakers from public schools.

(Video) How to Cover the School Voucher Expansion

Democratic lawmakers raised questions about expanding the scholarship beyond low-income families in North Carolina.

“Over time, we’ve realized that it’s important for all families to have choice,” Lee said during the committee meeting. “And we’ve talked to a lot of families, and some families are here today that don’t meet those eligibility criteria that would never have the opportunity to attend a private school.”

During the press conference, reporters also raised questions about the Republicans’ support to expand private school vouchers while blocking the Leandro plan. Earlier this month, a state superior court judge ruled that the state still owes $677.8 million toward public education for this school year and last school year.

“Rather than expanding a program that by its definition cannot support every student, let’s invest in our public schools so students have safe schools, inviting classrooms, a well-rounded curriculum, class sizes that are small enough for one-on-one attention, and support services such as health care, nutrition, and after-school programs for students who need them,” N.C. Association of Educators President Tamika Walker Kelly said in a statement Wednesday.

Lee said relying on a plan filed over 30 years ago was “laughable” and that the state already fulfilled many items laid out in the plan.

He went on to say that many Republican lawmakers believe the state should move toward “backpack funding,” where students are funded wherever they go to school. He said he wants to see “uniform funding among all students,” mentioning weighted funding.

Earlier this month, Senate Republicans filed Senate Bill 670, which would abolish “all funds, grants, allotments, and other sources of funding that expend their funds from the State Public School Fund,” to enact a weighted student funding model.

“I do think over time we will start establishing weighted student formulas, and those formulas will be the baseline to establish for children,” Lee said. “So it’s a long way of saying that backpack funding for families is where we’re heading with respect to all students.”

As soon as there is a fiscal note that compares current funding by district compared with funding by district if SB670 were to pass, EdNC will cover it.

(Video) The school choice journey: A conversation featuring US Senator Tim Scott

Bill Expanding N.C. Private School Vouchers to All Kids Moves Forward in Senate (3)

Questions about accountability

Under current state law, private schools are required to administer “at least once in each school year, a nationally standardized test or other nationally standardized equivalent measurement selected by the chief administrative officer of such school, to all students enrolled or regularly attending grades three, six and nine.”

Each school must make and maintain records of the results for one year after testing, for “annual inspection by a duly authorized representative of the State of North Carolina.”

In addition, a nonpublic school that accepts eligible students receiving scholarship grants must comply with the following measures, among others:

  • Contract with a certified public accountant to perform a financial review, consistent with generally accepted accounting principles, for each school year in which the school enrolls 70 or more students receiving scholarship grants or scholarship funds awarded by the Authority.
  • A nonpublic school that accepts students receiving scholarship grants shall not require any additional fees based on the status of the student as a scholarship grant recipient.
  • A nonpublic school enrolling more than 25 students whose tuition and fees are paid in whole or in part with a scholarship grant shall report to the Authority on the aggregate standardized test performance of eligible students.

Sen. Natasha Marcus, D-Mecklenburg, said such requirements don’t let lawmakers see how private schools perform compared to public schools, which must record and publish standardized testing data.

“We have a lot of choice already without this bill, which I think does a lot of damage to public education,” she said. “If we are going to open it up and balloon the payments the way this bill would do, are we now finally ready to agree to some accountability?”

Marcus also said some religious schools reject certain students, specifically listing LGBTQ+ students and students with a different religious background as an example. Public funds shouldn’t go to such schools, she said.

“The ultimate metric of accountability is the family and the student,” Lee said in response.

Earlier this month, House Democrats filed HB667, whichlays out additional testing requirements for the program.

This article first appeared on EducationNC and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.Bill Expanding N.C. Private School Vouchers to All Kids Moves Forward in Senate (4)Bill Expanding N.C. Private School Vouchers to All Kids Moves Forward in Senate (5)

(Video) How Right-Wing Grifters Are Destroying Public Schools

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What are school vouchers and why are they so controversial? ›

Rooted in Segregation and Racism

School districts used vouchers to enable white students to attend private schools, which could (and still can) limit admission based on race. As a result, the schools that served those white students were closed, and schools that served black students remained chronically underfunded.

What is the argument in favor of school vouchers? ›

Vouchers allow parents to choose their child's education. School vouchers improve education in general by making public schools compete with private schools for students in a free market. School vouchers allow school districts to overcome racial and other segregations.

How do school vouchers work in NC? ›

Private school vouchers are a way for the government to pay a student's tuition at a private school. Instead of the tax-payer funds going to a public school that the student would be able to attend free, the funds are used to pay for the student to attend a private school.

How long have school vouchers been around? ›

Voucher programs have been around since the early 1990s. They're not available in all states—or even to all students where they are available. The new secretary of education favors these programs, however, so it's possible more states will start offering them.

Who benefits most from school vouchers? ›

At present, the school choice programs currently operating in 29 states plus Washington, D.C. primarily benefit children from low-income families and students with special needs.

How has the Supreme Court ruled on the issue of school vouchers? ›

Supreme Court Decision Paves Way for Public Funds to Flow to Religious Schools. The Court's 6-3 decision in 'Carson v. Makin' could expand voucher programs across the nation, undermining public schools and the students they serve.

What constitutional issues are raised by school vouchers? ›

Governments use school vouchers to transfer money to parents to allow their children to attend the schools of their choice. The use of school vouchers touches on First Amendment establishment clause issues when parents are allowed to apply the vouchers to private religious schools.

Which of the following is a criticism of school vouchers? ›

School Voucher programs have been criticized because: They may result in taxpayer money going to religiously affiliated schools. This type of choice plan allows students to choose to attend any public school in their district or state.

What is the argument for free tuition? ›

Pros: Why College Should Be Free. Proponents often argue that publicly funded college tuition programs eventually pay for themselves, in part by giving students the tools they need to find better jobs and earn higher incomes than they would with a high school education.

Does NC offer private school vouchers? ›

NC House committee approves largest expansion of private school vouchers. The bill boosts funding for vouchers by hundreds of millions of dollars and makes anyone of any income eligible for them.

Does NC have school choice vouchers? ›

North Carolina's Opportunity Scholarship program provides private school vouchers to children of low-income households. Families can use these school vouchers to pay for tuition, transportation, equipment and other necessary private school expenses.

Is NC a school choice state? ›

There are a variety of school choice options available for many of the 2.3 million children living in North Carolina. Families in North Carolina can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling.

What state has the largest school voucher program? ›

Louisiana is the most generous with a standard deductible of up to $5,000 per student for homeschooling families. Are Scholarships Available to Help Students Attend Private K-12 Schools?

Who invented school vouchers? ›

Milton Friedman may have been the first person to introduce and apply the label “education voucher,” and he has certainly popularized such proposals both in that book and in later publications.

What is another name for school vouchers? ›

A school voucher, also called an education voucher in a voucher system, is a certificate of government funding for students at schools chosen by themselves or their parents. Funding is usually for a particular year, term, or semester.

Who is Chalkbeat org? ›

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news organization committed to covering one of America's most important stories: the effort to improve schools for all children, especially those who have historically lacked access to a quality education.

Which of the following is the best description of school vouchers? ›

a form of school choice reform that exists as checks or written documents that parents can use to purchase educational services. Best description of school vouchers? It is an accountability reform sponsored by the federal government.

What countries use school vouchers? ›

Countries with Vouchers or Tuition Tax Credits for Private Schooling
CountriesVouchersTuition Tax Credits*
United StatesYesYes
ItalyPublic OnlyYes
72 more rows

What is one of the possible disadvantages of school voucher systems? ›

School vouchers fail to accommodate and support disabled and special-needs students. Public schools are required by law to offer a wide range of free services to students who need extra or enhanced instruction, special services or equipment, or other educational accommodations.

Did the U.S. High Court say religious schools can get public money? ›

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that state programs providing money for public school tuition cannot exclude schools that offer religious instruction.

What is the lemon test in government? ›

Under the "Lemon" test, government can assist religion only if (1) the primary purpose of the assistance is secular, (2) the assistance must neither promote nor inhibit religion, and (3) there is no excessive entanglement between church and state.

Why are vouchers unconstitutional? ›

That's because California's constitution (Article IX, Paragraph 9) prohibits spending any public funds “for support of any sectarian or denominational school,” or on “any school not under the exclusive control of the officers of the public schools.”

Why is education not a constitutional right? ›

There is not a single mention of education in the U.S. Constitution. The establishment of education is one of the powers reserved to the states under the Tenth Amendment. Education is not a constitutionally protected right. That is an assertion made by the U.S. Supreme Court every time it has been challenged.

What is one reason that critics might object to school vouchers? ›

What is one reason that critics might object to school vouchers? They believe vouchers will drain funds from vulnerable public schools and cause them to deteriorate further. What development transformed and expanded the role of distance learning in the American educational system?

What are the weaknesses of vouchers? ›

Advantages and Disadvantages of Vouchers

The main disadvantages to the system are the lack of consumer familiarity with paper vouchers, concerns around security that are largely unfounded, and their general unpopularity preventing widespread use.

What are the pros and cons of school vouchers Chapter 32? ›

Giving vouchers to public school students enables them to pay to attend better-performing charter or private schools. However, school vouchers take the money and good students away from public schools, making it more difficult for those schools to improve.

Why are vouchers effective? ›

In a low-value promotion, a voucher reduces the tendency to compare the low gift value with the main product value, thus reducing disappointment about the low value. Thus, those who receive a voucher feel better about the promotion than those who are offered a gift directly.

How would free college affect taxpayers? ›

The Last-Dollar Tuition-Free program would cost the federal government $27.8 billion the year it is implemented. After 11 years, the Last-Dollar Tuition-Free program would cost the federal government $415 billion.

How do you argue tuition? ›

You can call, but you may get a better response by sending a polite, well-worded letter or email. When contacting the school to ask for a discount on tuition, fees or other costs, be prepared to make a strong case for why they should cut you a break.

What is the average cost of private schools in NC? ›

The average private school tuition in North Carolina is $9,627 per year (2023). The private elementary school average tuition cost is $9,053 per year and the private high school average is $10,048 per year. The private school with the lowest tuition cost is Trinity Baptist Academy, with a tuition of $1,850.

How much is a 3 bedroom voucher in NC? ›

Number of Person(s) in HHVoucher SizePayment Standard
HH & 1-2 children, other2 Bedroom$1553
HH & 3-4 children, other3 Bedroom$1906
HH & 5-6 children, other4 Bedroom$2407
HH & 7-8 children, other5 Bedroom$2637
3 more rows
Jan 31, 2023

What is NC voucher? ›

School vouchers are a way for the government to pay a student's tuition at a private school. Instead of the tax-payer funds going to a public school that the student would be able to attend free, the funds are used to pay for the student to attend a private school.

Can you live in one school district and go to another NC? ›

Open enrollment policies

Under intra-district enrollment policies, students may transfer to schools within their home districts. Under inter-district enrollment policies, students may transfer to schools outside of their home districts.

What are the income requirements for the Opportunity Scholarship in NC? ›

Since the total household income is less than $42,419 but greater than $31,894, you are eligible for 90% of the required tuition and fees.

What was the intent of the No Child Left Behind Act? ›

NCLB was designed to address the concern that the American education system was lagging behind its international competitors by holding schools responsible for boosting student performance through mandated standardized tests and minimum performance benchmarks.

Is it illegal to not go to school NC? ›

North Carolina compulsory education laws are found in General Statutes section 115C-378. Children between ages seven and sixteen must attend school.

Are children required to go to school in North Carolina? ›

All public school systems must offer kindergarten, but children are not required to attend. Compulsory attendance applies to children between the ages of seven and sixteen and also children aged 5 or 6 as long as they are enrolled in public school.

What are the promise schools of NC? ›

Undergraduate students at three UNC System campuses, Elizabeth City State University, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and Western Carolina University, pay only $500 for in-state tuition and $2,500 for out-of-state tuition each fall and spring semester.

What is the richest public school district in the US? ›

Scarsdale Union Free School District, N.Y.

Households in the Scarsdale Union Free School District are the wealthiest in the nation, with a median annual income of $238,478, or 4.5 times greater than the comparable national median income of $53,046.

Why were private schools created? ›

Religious organizations, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, founded their own schools to combat Protestant indoctrination in public schools. Not everyone believed families should have the option of leaving the public schools. It took a 1925 Supreme Court decision (Pierce v.

Does school choice cause segregation? ›

Thus, a policy of unmitigated school choice compounds and increases segregation when Black and White parents differ in school preferences.

Where did private schools come from in the US? ›

The first school in the modern-day United States predated the Pilgrims and was a private, independent school in a land not even a nation yet. In 1606, the Franciscan order established a Catholic school in what is now St. Augustine, Fla., later starting mission schools throughout the southwest and California.

What is another name for a payment voucher? ›

Debit Voucher or Payment Voucher

A payment voucher is another name for a debit voucher.

What is the other term for payment voucher? ›

synonyms for voucher

On this page you'll find 39 synonyms, antonyms, and words related to voucher, such as: certificate, coupon, receipt, ticket, check, and chit.

What are tuition vouchers and why do critics believe that they violate the First Amendment? ›

Vouchers provide parents with tuition in order to send their children to private schools. Proponents of vouchers say they rescue children and challenge public schools to do a better job. Critics say vouchers siphon needed funding from public schools and endanger the foundation of the public school system…

Why do critics believe that tuition vouchers violate the First Amendment? ›

Critics of this tax deduction contended it violated the establishment clause because it enabled parents to send their children to parochial schools, thereby allowing these schools to benefit from tax money.

Do students lose their First Amendment rights? ›

The Supreme Court ruled in 1969 that students do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate." This is true for other fundamental rights, as well.

Did the school district violate the students 1st Amendment rights to freedom of speech? ›

In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court's majority ruled that neither students nor teachers “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” The Court took the position that school officials could not prohibit only on the suspicion that the speech might disrupt the learning ...

What are violations of the First Amendment right? ›

What types of speech are completely unprotected by the First Amendment? Certain categories of speech are completely unprotected by the First Amendment. That list includes (i) child pornography, (ii) obscenity, and (iii) “fighting words” or “true threats.”

Can schools violate the First Amendment? ›

Schools cannot punish students for profane speech that takes place off-campus (except during a field trip, which courts consider part of the school). Nor can they punish students for off-campus speech which advocates illegal drug use.

Why does the First Amendment not protect private schools? ›

Because private universities are not government entities, they are not required to uphold First Amendment protections in the same manner as public universities. In other words, private institutions may impose stricter limitations on free speech. Still, most adhere to free speech principles and support academic freedom.

What is one criticism of gifted and talented classes? ›

What is one criticism of gifted-and-talented classes? Children who are not in the classes may feel inferior.

What is one reason critics object to school vouchers? ›

What is one reason that critics might object to school vouchers? They believe vouchers will drain funds from vulnerable public schools and cause them to deteriorate further. What development transformed and expanded the role of distance learning in the American educational system?

What is a voucher good for? ›

A voucher is a document used by a company's accounts payable department to gather and file all of the supporting documents needed to approve the payment of a liability. Governments may also issue vouchers redeemable for various programs such as for school choice, housing, or social welfare initiatives.

What is one of the advantages of using a voucher system? ›

It reduces the number of errors, which, in turn, lessens the need for costly review and audit. Therefore, adopting a check voucher system makes review and audit less necessary.


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