September 11, 2020

You may remember a few of our latest blogs dealt with the fate of school choice in the form of Opportunity Scholarships and Governor Cooper’s move to eliminate that program in his budget – which would have been a huge blow to many low-income families with children in school.

Well, in the NC General Assembly session last week, not only did that not happen – the Opportunity Scholarship program was expanded and the Governor’s effort went down in flames.

A Wall Street Journal editorial celebrated the victory for school choice, describing how reform majority legislators used the state’s $1.1 billion Covid-19 relief bill to expand the program.  As the editorial said, “North Carolina Republicans who control the Legislature made school choice a condition of support for the bill, and the Governor had to sign or risk losing all those unspent federal dollars. As GOP state Sen. Rob Bryan put it, ‘no one really wants to vote against parental choice in this climate’.”

To remind you of the legislation’s strong merits:

It expands Opportunity Scholarships – raising the income limit for a family of four to $72,000 from roughly $63,000.

It lifts caps on enrollment for kindergarten and first-grade students – giving 1,000 kids on the waiting list a choice.

It allows two virtual charter schools to enroll an additional 3,800 students.

And the legislation includes $335 in “extra credit” grants to families with children that can be used to enhance their education. 

This was a big win for school choice in North Carolina.  And was another ray of hope for low-income families who want options to get the best and safest education they can for their children. That’s what really matters here, not the fact that the Governor’s attempt to eradicate Opportunity Scholarships was turned on its head by the reform majority in the legislature.

As the Wall Street Journal editorial stated:

“North Carolina’s decision comes as Covid-19 has exposed the union-first, students-last priorities of traditional public schools. Many union schools refuse to return to in-person learning, while charters and private schools are doing so. Parents worried about their children falling behind are learning that the union schools’ take-it-or-leave-it approach leaves them without options.”

That’s some strong words, friends.