Bill would provide state money for private school tuition
Posted April 15, 2013
Updated April 16, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, on Monday filed a bill that would help families pay for private school tuition.
Stam calls the proposal the "Opportunity Scholarship program," but opponents say it's a voucher scheme that won't help students who need it most.
"Parents can do a better job of picking the best educational environment for their child than the state can," Stam said. "This empowers parents of limited means to make that choice effectively."
Under the legislation, $90 million in state taxpayer money would be set aside over the next two years to pay up to 90 percent of the cost of private school. The average amount would be $3,900, meaning about 13,000 students a year – about 1 percent of public school enrollment statewide – could be served.
"The vast majority of the children will still be in the traditional public schools," Stam said. "The vast amount of the resources will still be in the public schools."
Rodney Ellis, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said public money shouldn't pay for private schools, even for just a few students.
"If you start taking those resources out of public schools, that's less that we have in public schools to be able to provide a quality education for the students who attend public school, which I might add we're not able to select and be selective about. We have to take every student as they enter our buildings," Ellis said.
North Carolina is already near the bottom nationwide in spending on schools. Ellis said cutting more is not the way to improve them.
"We can provide the necessary support for students in our schools. We just need the resources to do it," he said.
Stam's bill would allow a family of four earning up to $53,000 to apply for tuition aid in 2013-14, and that would rise to $71,000 the following year.
"If that's going to be the case, we think that many of those students are already in a position where they can afford to go to private or charter schools," Ellis said.