This week is National School Choice Week. We can celebrate that parents have the right to choose the best educational opportunity for their child. They have the ability to choose a traditional public school, a public charter school, a private school, or a home school. In North Carolina, there are over 1.6 million students. Traditional public schools serve 1.4 million students; private schools serve approximately 100,000 students; there are approximately 100,000 home school students; and approximately 60,000 students attend public charter schools. Next school year up to 3,000 students will have the opportunity to attend a virtual charter school.
This school year nearly 1,200 low income students have the opportunity to attend the private school of their choice through the Opportunity Scholarship program. Over 4,500 students applied for an Opportunity Scholarship. Low income parents can apply for up to $4,200 per year per student. We expect to expand this scholarship program to more students.
We also have a Special Needs Scholarship program. Parents of special needs children today can apply for up to $3,000 per child per semester for tuition, special education related services, and educational technology costs. Some students who attend private schools or home schools are eligible for the scholarship.
I will support legislation that allows charter schools to receive a larger percentage of local school funding and allows county commissioners to fund charter school construction. Public charter schools do not now receive funds for school construction like their traditional public school counterparts. Traditional public schools could use some of the same flexibility that charter schools enjoy.
A recent study (June 2014) released by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice shows strong support for school choice. Support for Opportunity Scholarships (vouchers) was strong with 63% in favor (33% oppose). The South showed the strongest support with 66% in favor (30% oppose).
The majority of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents support vouchers. Republicans had the strongest support with 69% in favor (27% oppose), Democrats had 59% in favor (37% oppose), and Independents had 58% in favor (37% oppose).
Young voters, from 18-34 years old, showed the strongest support with 69% in favor (25% oppose). This is compared to 65% in favor (33% oppose) for 35-54 year olds and 56% in favor (40% oppose) for those above 55 years old.
Among income levels, those who earn less than $40,000 showed the most support with 72% in favor (25% oppose). Those in income ranges of $40,000 to $79,999 and $80,000+ showed 59% (35% oppose) and 61% (38% oppose) in favor, respectively.
The results support school choice as being the civil rights issue of the 21st century. Blacks show the highest support with 74% in favor (24% oppose), compared to 61% of Whites in favor (35% oppose).
Parents support vouchers with 69% in favor (27% oppose), compared to 60% of non-parents in favor (36% oppose).
Another study by the Friedman Foundation (April 2013) found twenty-three empirical studies have examined school choice’s impact on academic outcomes in public schools. Of these, 22 find that choice improves public schools and one finds no visible impact. No empirical study has found that choice harms public schools. Six empirical studies have examined school choice’s fiscal impact on taxpayers. All six find that school choice saves money for taxpayers. No empirical study has found a negative fiscal impact.
More and more Americans want parents and students to be able to attend the school of their choice regardless of address, political affiliation, age, income, or race.