Education

Applications pour in for private school vouchers

Posted February 4

— Three days after North Carolina began taking applications for the state's new school voucher program, hundreds of families have entered the lottery, hoping to get the state to pick up part of the cost of private school tuition.

As of noon Tuesday, 1,400 families had applied online, meaning 2,100 children were already vying for the 2,400 or so vouchers that will be issued for the 2014-15 school year. Applications will be accepted until midnight Feb. 25.

Lawmakers voted last year to set aside $10 million to help pay for students to go to private or religious schools. The so-called Opportunity Scholarships will provide up to $4,200 a year per student for tuition and fees, and families would be responsible for any charges over that.

"It doesn’t necessarily cover the full cost, and it doesn’t mean the school can’t charge the rest of the cost,” said Elizabeth McDuffie, director for grants, training and outreach for the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority.

Only students who are currently in public school and who are in low-income families are eligible for the vouchers. For a family of three, the maximum annual income is $36,612, while a family of four can't make more than $44,568 a year.

McDuffie said applications that don't meet the income guidelines will be tossed out before the state holds a lottery to select the families who will receive vouchers. Students who win a voucher this year will get first priority to have it renewed in 2015-16, as long as the family continues to meet income guidelines, she said.

To obtain the money that the vouchers carry, schools must be registered with the state’s Division of Non-Public Education – home schools don’t qualify. The law imposes few other restrictions on which schools families can pick. There are no minimum standards for national test scores, GPAs or graduation rates, and even though students must qualify for free or reduced-price lunch to be eligible for the vouchers, schools accepting vouchers aren't required to provide lunch.

“There are a few schools who are deciding not to participate," McDuffie said. "They may make another decision next year, but they’re not getting into it initially.”

Applications are online only, and parents must have an email – McDuffie said the program will communicate with families only through email. If a family's application is selected in the lottery, each child listed on it will obtain a voucher.

The North Carolina Association of Educators and the North Carolina School Boards Association have filed suit to block the voucher program, saying shifting state money from public schools to private schools is unconstitutional. A hearing is set for Feb. 17 to determine whether the voucher selection process should be delayed until the lawsuit is resolved.

If a judge permits the lottery to proceed, winners will be notified starting March 3.

22 Comments

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  • Hubris Feb 5, 6:27 p.m.

    "Only students who are currently in public school and who are in low-income families are eligible for the vouchers. For a family of three, the maximum annual income is $36,612, while a family of four can't make more than $44,568 a year."

    There is absolutely no reason why anyone, either conservative or liberal, to be against this. It helps the poor get a better education. Obama and the Dems are always talking about income disparity. Here's one way to solve that problem.

  • ILoveDowntownRaleigh Feb 5, 6:17 p.m.

    "There goes my tax dollars to pay for rich kids to go to private schools!" - frankdowntown

    "Frank, you obviously did NOT read the article..........these vouchers are for low income families ONLY......" - btneast

    btneast: Technically, you are correct. But in reality, this is simply orchestrated theater, intended to provide political cover to the NC Republican general assembly.

    As they continue their anti-education agenda, the NC general assembly are now taking the unconstitutional step of donating public tax money, "vouchers", to unregulated entrepreneurs. For more information, search on "charter schools + corruption + North Carolina".

    Next, they will claim that since poor people have received voucher money, rich people have a right to it, too.

    And voila! The Tea Party's anti-government, anti-education, anti-science agenda takes a step forward.

    :-) Or should I say, we all take a step backward!

  • sinew1 Feb 5, 2:22 p.m.

    GINGERLYNN
    Another mc crory give awa to his cronys in the charter school industry who were some of his biggest supporters!!

    Gingerlynn by your comment...you obviously have no clue as to how charter schools work.

  • btneast Feb 5, 2:06 p.m.

    There goes my tax dollars to pay for rich kids to go to private schools!

    — Posted by Frank Downtown

    Frank, you obviously did NOT read the article..........these vouchers are for low income families ONLY......

  • Honesty first Feb 5, 12:47 p.m.

    So is a kid goes to a fancy private school and is on scholarship because he is low income and he is a great football player of basketball player, the wonderful State of NC will now pay a piece of what before was free. Great move Tillis and Berger. You guys continue to surprise me but I should be used to it by now

  • glarg Feb 5, 12:36 p.m.

    " Oh, that was the sound of every private school in NC raising their tuition rates by exactly $4200..."

    Ridiculous and shows no knowledge of economics.

    There are over 100,000 private school students currently in North Carolina (saving the state hundreds of millions of dollars BTW). Adding 2,400 students to that pool is not going to allow the schools to raise the tuition on every one by $4,200.

    A further error is that you assume that 2,400 students families could afford the raised tuition rates. But if that were the case then the kids would already be enrolled! A family on $36K cant afford the full tuition.

    This is nothing but a scare tactic. It will be interesting to see how far the Dems will go in court to prevent poor kids from getting a shot at an decent education.

  • Frank Downtown Feb 5, 12:33 p.m.

    There goes my tax dollars to pay for rich kids to go to private schools!

  • krimson Feb 5, 11:36 a.m.

    What was that sound??? Oh, that was the sound of every private school in NC raising their tuition rates by exactly $4200...

  • gingerlynn Feb 5, 11:16 a.m.

    Another mc crory give awa to his cronys in the charter school industry who were some of his... View More

    — Posted by recontwice

    I doubt many of mccrorys "cronys" make less than 40k a year to qualify for a voucher.

  • Atheistinafoxhole Feb 5, 11:02 a.m.

    We could start improving public schools by paying teachers better wages and cutting the corporate welfare payments to "for profit" institutions." I find it odd that the so-called "conservatives" support these taxpayer giveaways that only benefit a small group, rather than society at large.

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