Voucher backers want NC to double available slots before lottery

Posted June 17, 2014

— Supporters of state-funded private school vouchers gathered in front of the Legislative Building on Tuesday to urge lawmakers to add funding to the high-demand program, which they say gives low-income families a say in their children’s education.

The “Opportunity Scholarship” program, passed by the General Assembly last year, gives annual grants of up to $4,200 to families that want to send their children to private schools, including religious institutions.Advocates say the vouchers allow low-income children to attend schools that meet their individual needs when public schools fail to do so.

“Nearly 75 percent of the applications that flooded into North Carolina were (those) of minority families,” said Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina. “You have parents who are in desperate need of finding an option that’s going to work for their child.”

Allison cited low end-of-grade test scores among poor North Carolina students – a sign, he said, that public school classrooms stifle many low-income students’ success.

Casey Cooper said her special-needs son needs a smaller classroom than the one offered in his Statesville public school.

"When he’s in a regular classroom setting, he’s lost because the teacher cannot give him the time that is needed for him to be able to understand the lessons given to him," Cooper said.

More than 5,500 families applied for the program before a judge issued an injunction in February, stalling the application process. The state Supreme Court lifted the injunction last month.

The state will distribute the 2,400 available vouchers through a lottery next Wednesday, but advocates said Tuesday that several families are still scrambling for slots that the state lacks money to fill.

“We had nearly double that in terms of demand,” Allison said. “We’re talking about making sure … at the end of the day, it won’t be the luck of a bouncing lottery ball.”

The state set aside $10 million for the program, and Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam, R-Wake, said House leaders hope to shift the budget around to find another $7 million to $8 million to fund the roughly 2,000 eligible applicants whose spots were left in limbo by the injunction.

“It’s a very small amount,” Stam said of the amount needed to fill the gap, relative to the $21 billion budget. “Plus, the average student who moves from public to private school saves the state about $1,000. You don’t really have to find the money, because you’re actually relieving the state of an expense.”

Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, the Senate’s chief education budget writer, said he also wants to find room in the final spending plan to cover the program’s extra seats.

“I feel obligated to try to work towards that,” Tillman said. “I don’t know where it’s going to come from yet, but I’m pledging to do what I can to help with that.”

House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger joined voucher advocates at a news conference in support of the program.

“This is about giving parents an opportunity to put their child in a setting that helps ensure that they realize their hopes and dreams,” said Tillis, R-Mecklenburg.

Rodney Ellis, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, called it "reckless" to add money to a program that his group is still challenging in court.

"They haven’t come up with funding to provide teachers with salary increases, which is a big issue right now. If they can’t do that, I don’t see how they can allocate for something else like vouchers," Ellis said. "Our system is already struggling to meet the demands of our students right now, and to begin to siphon off resources and sending children to private schools with public dollars is unconstitutional."

Civil rights leader Howard Fuller, a vocal advocate of voucher programs nationwide, called the program a 2014 fight for social justice. He said the vouchers allow low-income students to succeed in the long term and give parents more power over children’s education.

“The reality is, we should not have an America where only those of us with money have the ability to choose the best educational environment for our children,” Fuller said. “We do know this: If we do not educate our children, there is another public institution waiting for them, and it’s called prison.”


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  • Terry Watts Jun 26, 2014
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    I saw on N&O that 9 out of the top 10 Private's with the most requests for vouchers are families in religious schools... And Al-Iman Islamic School has the most applicants (84):


  • littleriver69 Jun 26, 2014

    Ok the voucher is $4200. The private school could be $7500. Who pays the difference? Many of the parents wanting vouchers can't afford to pay for the childs lunch! How can the afford the balance of the private school??

  • Margaret Bartholomew Jun 25, 2014
    user avatar

    "I hope it will bring in students that we've not had that chance to minister to before," said Linda Barker, a teacher at Raleigh Christian Academy.
    Read more at http://www.wral.com/vouchers-seen-as-winning-ticket-for-nc-private-schools/12752504/#ddoJQ7rXx2IWrbHx.99
    Enough said!

  • Margaret Bartholomew Jun 25, 2014
    user avatar

    If you want your taxpayer money to go to schools that teach such things as the Loch Ness monster exists and thus disproves the evolution theory because the Loch Ness monster is a dinosaur, go ahead and support the voucher program. I want someone to tell me how I can get in on the lawsuit as a taxpayer to prevent my money going to a private school at the expense of my own child.

  • Terry Watts Jun 18, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    That's fine, but if you are going to introduce evidence to support your position, you should make it specific to the subject: Private Schools in NC.

    But to follow your line of thinking, you should start researching the connections b/w Margiotta (previous GOP leader of Wake School Board), Luddy (owner of Thales Academy), Art Pope (NC Budget Director) and the Civitas Institute...

  • angelallgrim Jun 18, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Its the same concept, different semantics.

  • Terry Watts Jun 18, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Not that I don't disagree with some aspects of your criticism of Charters, but Vouchers would be used to pay for tuition at Private Schools. Charter Schools have no tuition fees - they are paid for through Tax-Dollars...

  • angelallgrim Jun 18, 2014

    There are so many reasons why vouchers are a terrible idea, here are some facts:
    1.) Increased white collar crime involved due to more involvement from hedge fund investors, and less involvement from government watchdogs- see recent news in Illinois regarding this.
    2.) Poor performance on college entrance exams from charter students- see Ohio, NY, and numerous others.
    3.) Many of the same people (banks, hedge fund investors, etc.) who are financially pushing charters around the country are no different than those who invested in the subprime mortgage fiasco before the crisis.
    4.) Many of the same people (Gates, Waltons,Michelle Rhee, Kochs, etc.) who are pushing charters are also the ones who have been pushing Common Core.
    5.) "School choice" is just a political buzzword that is thrown around to grab people's attention who aren't interested in reading the facts.

    We sold our soul for Common Core. Don't do it for the charters too.

  • Michael Hart Jun 18, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    oh no, you want to send Billy or Suzie to Private school, you pay for it on your dime not mine! Because you like shiny things and we provide lackluster things for free doesn't mean you get a break...sorry....

  • goldenosprey Jun 18, 2014

    "People who are against the vouchers know that the public school system is terrible but are jealous that someone else might be able to get away from it. It's the "keep everyone down" mentality.
    Read more at http://www.wral.com/share/page/1896337/?id=13742171#U4vC394Vy7dG56IE.99

    The public schools are pretty bad in some places, which is why I sent my kids to private school until I lived in the triangle. But the answer is not to further diminish them by giving a random few a parochial education on the taxpayer's back - we should adequately research and fund the public system. Steps like vouchers show us conceding that we are incapable of doing things as well as other states and countries.