Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC), the state’s leading voice for educational choice, applauds the tremendous parental demand for both the Opportunity Scholarship Program and Children with Disabilities Grant. Over 12,000 Opportunity Scholarship applications have been received since the Program’s start just three years ago while the Students with Disabilities Grant has 815 students who are currently using the grant.
These programs allow eligible families to receive scholarships and grants in order to attend participating private schools and needed therapeutic services. According to the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA), applications have come from nearly all counties in the state. As of February 15, approximately 11,614 Opportunity Scholarship applications have been received since the Program started in 2014-15. Additionally, an estimated 1,720 applications have come in since February 1, 2016, just 18 days since the application opened.
“The extraordinary number of applications reveals that parents are demanding options which meet the unique needs of their children. Sometimes these needs aren’t met by their traditional district schools and that’s okay,” said Darrell Allison, President of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina. “The numbers are very compelling, especially when you consider that the first two application cycles of this Program were under a heavy legal cloud and we know that hundreds, if not thousands, of families were impacted by it. Since the affirmative Supreme Court ruling last July, the floodgates have opened for many low-income families to access the school of their choice and I believe our state will post our strongest numbers yet as a result.”
An estimated 6,200 scholarships are available for the 2016-17 school year, up from 1,100 students in the Program’s first year (2014-15), and the Children with Disabilities Grant program has reached its maximum student limit.
“Programs like these are providing opportunities and enriching the lives of thousands of our neediest children and families across the state. I foresee the Opportunity Scholarship Program exceeding its budgeted threshold in a matter of months, and we must increase funds for our special needs program which has a waiting list in the hundreds, but no additional funds allocated for these families. North Carolina has risen quickly as a national leader in parental school choice and we must do what we can to support parents who are powerfully demonstrating that they are best suited to determine the education that works best for their child,” said Allison.
The Opportunity Scholarship Program, passed in July 2013, creates scholarships of up to $4,200 for low-income and working-class families to attend a private school. To be eligible for a scholarship for the 2016-2017 school year, household income must not exceed 133% of the amount to qualify for free and reduced price lunch (about $59,790 for a family of 4). Families who are interested in the Opportunity Scholarship Program can check their eligibility by visiting http://www.schoolchoicenc.org/Qualify2016 but must officially apply through the NCSEAA.
PEFNC is a statewide organization that supports greater educational options through parental school choice, such as public charter schools and the Opportunity Scholarship Program. Our mission is to inform parents of the benefits of expanded options and empower them to exercise freedom in meeting their children’s needs, regardless of race, national origin, income or religion.