@NCCapitol

Vouchers seen as winning ticket for NC private schools

Posted August 7, 2013
Updated August 8, 2013

— Although they won't be issued until next March, vouchers that will allow hundreds of students from low-income families to attend private schools across North Carolina already have officials at many schools eagerly anticipating an influx of students.

State lawmakers set aside $10 million in the budget for so-called "Opportunity Scholarships" to help pay private school tuition for about 2,500 students, starting in the 2014-15 school year. Legislative leaders said they plan to ratchet the fund up to $50 million a year after that.

"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.

Under the program, families can receive $4,200 per year or 90 percent of annual tuition costs, whichever is less. To qualify, a family's annual income must meet the guidelines for free or reduced-price school lunches – although that threshold would increase to 133 percent of those guidelines after the first year.

Applications will be available this fall.

Tuition at Raleigh Christian Academy is about $6,000 a year, and school administrator Dwight Ausley said families struggle with the cost. Enrollment has dropped during the recession.

"I'm just really happy that we've got this voucher program that will help parents make that choice that might be better for their kids," Ausley said.

Backers say vouchers give poorer families more school options Backers say vouchers give poorer families more school options

Karen Duquette, vice president of Parents for Educational Freedom, said the grants will give poorer families the same options as wealthier families for their children's schooling.

"There is truly an academic gap, primarily (among) low-income and minority students, and they're looking for another option," Duquette said.

But Mark Jewell, vice president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said private schools don't have the same accountability that public schools do and don't offer services poor students need.

"Some of our most vulnerable students are going to be the ones that are left behind – those who can't provide transportation, those who are not provided free and reduced (price) lunch," Jewell said. 

Ausley says his school already has many minority and low-income students, some funded through church-paid scholarships, and some students are accepted despite academic challenges. 

"We’re a ministry," Ausley said. "We want to help families. We’re not as highly selective as perhaps other schools are. We want to help make a difference in the lives of students." 

The NCAE plans to file a lawsuit to stop the program, arguing that taxpayer money shouldn't go to private schools. Supporters say it is constitutional because the checks will be made out to parents who sign them over to the school they choose.

"We do feel like it is a separation of church and state (issue)," Jewell said.

Jewell also said he believes the voucher program violates the state constitution's promise of a "uniform free basic education" for all students. 

"When you open the door to vouchers, it’s more or less a false promise, saying that private schools are going to accept every child, when we just know that’s simply not the case," Jewell said.

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  • southernrebels Aug 9, 7:00 p.m.

    What in the world is wrong with our state?? I am disgusted by the current legislature and what they are doing to education. I am sorry, but if you want your kid to go to a private school, then it is your responsibility to pay for it. Public tax dollars are for public schools. They could put that money into our public schools to help raise the embarrassing teacher salaries or something else. I hope a lawsuit overturns this, this is just plain wrong. I feel bad for our teachers these days. The article on "The Decline of North Carolina" in the New York Times had it right. Our legislature is ruining any progress we have made. Totally disgusting.

  • Plenty Coups Aug 9, 3:16 p.m.

    "Parents should and always be the first in deciding the education of their children."

    When could they never decide the education of their children?

    "Finally education will no longer be decided by ones zip code."

    That's kind of like saying that where one chooses to live will no longer be decided by their zip code. If you don't like where you live or the local schools, move. If you'd rather go to private school, do so. Just don't expect me to pay for your choice. I already pay for public schools which have accountability and don't exclude.

  • lanamaycrook Aug 9, 1:38 p.m.

    Finally education will no longer be decided by ones zip code. Let parents be a part of their child's education by giving them a choice. We have done it your way educators for 100 years time for "change" Parents should and always be the first in deciding the education of their children.

  • ILoveDowntownRaleigh Aug 9, 12:28 p.m.

    "that is physcho-babble nonsense and you know it...public education in nc has been a dismal failure." - wildpig777

    From today's WRAL news: graduation rates from Wake County high schools have risen steadily from 2006 through 2013, and have gone from 68% to 83%. Hispanic graduation rates have soared 25% during those same years.

    "Officials also lauded Career and Technical Education courses, ninth-grade academies, career counseling and course credit recovery programs as helping to keep students in school."

    Some facts and lots of good news from the Wake County public school system. That ain't no psychobabble, wild pig, and it doesn't seem to fit in with your rhetoric.

  • ILoveDowntownRaleigh Aug 9, 12:14 p.m.

    "I'm just really happy that we've got this voucher program that will help parents make that choice that might be better for their kids," Ausley said."

    Well I'm not happy. NO TAX MONEY FOR PRIVATE SCHOOL VOUCHERS! Spend our tax money to improve the public school system.

    "Karen Duquette, vice president of Parents for Educational Freedom, said the grants will give poorer families the same options as wealthier families for their children's schooling."

    Oh yeah right! And these private schools will be free to reject anyone they want, and you know how THAT'S going to work.

  • Plenty Coups Aug 9, 11:28 a.m.

    johnny-"Don't you just love the liberals freaking out on this board when anyone saids anything about the teachers union."

    No, I love it when you get caught in a lie, like your claim that NCAE is a union, and then retreat to vague and broad statements.

  • Plenty Coups Aug 9, 11:27 a.m.

    wildpig-"that is physcho-babble nonsense and you know it is mark
    if one merely looks at education in nc it is obvivous that ingeneral -- public education in nc has been a dismal failure."

    If its been a "dismal failure" then you should be able to easily prove it. So lets see if you can put your money where your mouth is wildpig. Show me evidence of how NC's public schools are failures using data. I'm not interested in your trying to pretend that exceptions constitute the rule.

    In fact, nationwide NAEP test scores show NC students to be middle of the pack as far as states go.

    Our graduation rates are the highest percentage ever.

    And multiple studies show public schools exceeding or having similar results to private schools.

    So what evidence can you show to support your claim? If you can't provide evidence, why do you claim its so?

  • aspenstreet1717 Aug 9, 11:03 a.m.

    Remember the children of the liberal elite already go to private schools.

  • A Libertarian Aug 9, 10:56 a.m.

    Don't you just love the liberals freaking out on this board when anyone saids anything about the teachers union. They are so funny. What is more funny is they still do not understand why they are paying union dues and all they get are union bosses living off 6 digit incomes from there ignorance.

  • wildpig777 Aug 9, 10:28 a.m.

    But Mark Jewell, vice president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said private schools don't have the same accountability that public schools do and don't offer services poor students need.

    that is physcho-babble nonsense and you know it is mark. you spew the ncea standard line of -- we're public educators and we offer the best. which if one merely looks at education in nc it is obvivous that ingeneral -- public education in nc has been a dismal failure.

    fact o the matter is i know of no private schools that cannot EASILY EXCEED in most anything the public school system offers. mark admit the break down, face the truth, change your thinking and you will be a better person for it.

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