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National School Choice Week carries different significance this year

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This week is National School Choice Week. It’s held every January, and its purpose is to highlight all the options parents and students have for attending K-12 schools, including traditional public, public magnet, public charter, online, private, and home schools. 

National School Choice Week carries a different significance for parents and politicians this year against the backdrop of the legislature’s decision to expand school choice statewide.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has declared a state of emergency for public schools in North Carolina. “Public education is the bedrock of North Carolina’s success. Public education powers our workforce, builds our businesses, and boosts our communities,” says the statement.

Public schools offer choice

Public schools offer an abundance of choice for students and parents: year round, charter, restart schools, language immersion, single sex, early college, career academies, virtual academies, alternative schools, laboratory schools, many magnet options, newcomer schools, and more.

Charter schools are public schools authorized by the State Board of Education and operated by independent non-profit boards of directors held accountable through the State assessment and accountability system. Some contract out some or all of their operations or services to a for-profit organization.

Magnet schools are public schools that allow students to learn through a specialized focus on a field of learning, such as STEM or the arts.

Restart schools are traditional public schools granted similar flexibilities as charter schools by the State Board of Education and their local school board.

Language-immersion schools allow students to learn while being surrounded by and immersed in a second language to promote learning multiple languages.

School choice by the numbers

Most parents in North Carolina choose and will continue to choose public schools.

According to EdNC’s analysis of the state’s most recent numbers, traditional public schools have 1,358,003 students in 2023-24.

Charter schools have 139,985 students in 209 schools in 2023-24.

In the 2022-23 school year, 126,768 students were enrolled in private schools. 

And in the 2022-23 school year, there were 94,154 home schools statewide. 

Rollout of school choice expansion

New applications for private school vouchers offered through the Opportunity Scholarship program will be open from Feb. 1 to March 1, according to the N.C. State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA), which administers the program.

Things to note from their website:

  • Parents started creating accounts as early as December 2023. Here is the application process.
  • Parents of any North Carolina student entering kindergarten through 12th grade may apply.
  • Scholarships range from $3,246 to $7,213 and are based on a family’s household income.
  • Scholarships can be used to pay the required tuition and fees to attend an eligible private school.
  • In early April, families who apply will get an award offer or waitlist notification.

National School Choice Week resources and events

Here is the North Carolina state guide offered by the organizers of National School Choice Week.

Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina will host a celebration of the expansion school choice at 10 a.m. on Jan. 24 at Halifax Mall on the grounds of the General Assembly in Raleigh, according to the press advisory.

The North Carolina Association for Public Charter Schools is holding a charter school celebration luncheon on Jan. 25 at 12 p.m. at Traine Seaboard Station in Raleigh.