While “First in Flight” isn’t the official state motto of North Carolina – we all take great pride in knowing our state provided the backdrop for that historic moment.
On education reform, one could argue that over the last seven or eight years, North Carolina is “first in school choice,” and, I would argue (with confidence) that no state has provided more new educational choice options during that time than the Tar Heel State.
Last week in DC, the annual American Federation for Children Policy Summit demonstrated indisputably, the national desire for expanding parental school choice options. We’ve seen first-hand the effect in our state. Our team was on hand for the event featuring North Carolina-driven highlights.
North Carolina Leader Honored
The annual summit kicked off with a banquet, and on the docket for the event was a prestigious honor awarded to North Carolina’s own Phil Berger, the President Pro Tem of the State Senate.
Senator Berger received the Policymaker Award from AFC for his leadership to ensure all children in our state have access to a quality education. Watch Senator Berger in AFC’s video highlight HERE.
The Nation’s Newest Member of the ESA Club
Last legislative session, North Carolina legislators passed a Special Needs Education Savings Account program, making our state the 6th in the nation to offer families an ESA option. This is yet another purpose-driven reform here in North Carolina. Our organization has tipped our cap to legislators for the innovative approach to the Special Needs ESA that has the ability to stack with both of NC’s other private school scholarships (the Opportunity Scholarship and the Children with Disabilities Grant).
While fighting hard for the Special Needs ESA and providing a platform for parents and school leaders to be heard by the lawmakers who created the program, we developed a strong relationship with Tim Montgomery from the Piedmont School in High Point. Tim is an incredible leader and it was no surprise that AFC asked him to join their ESA themed panel at the Summit. Thank you, Tim, for representing your school and our state!
North Carolina Legislator Steals the Show
On Thursday afternoon, the Summit focused on a national panel (moderated by PEFNC’s Founding President and now AFC’s National Director of State Teams, Darrell Allison) with legislators from rural districts, including North Carolina’s own Senator Erica Smith, a Democrat from NC’s 3rd State Senate District. The 3rd State Senate District consists of 8 rural counties where Senator Smith has been a strong voice for educational options, including strengthening our traditional public schools, while also ensuring families have quality choice options.
Senator Smith was among the legislators who refused to play politics, but rather, pushed for the implementation of these three parental school choice programs and supported the expansion of multiple educational environments. Now, her District hosts four public charter schools and 10 private schools with 135 applicants for the Opportunity Scholarship (2018-2019 school year).
Senator Smith proved once again that school choice isn’t a Republican or Democrat thing, or an urban or rural thing – it’s the right thing! Thank you, Senator Smith, for your leadership and for sharing North Carolina’s story at the Summit.