Kids celebrate

Senate Budget Seeks to Expand Opportunity Scholarship Program for Families

Thousands more North Carolina students may soon have greater access to educational choice through the Opportunity Scholarship Program which could help nearly 36,000 children by the 2027-28 school year, reports Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC). This Program, passed in July 2013, creates scholarships of up to $4,200 for low-income and working-class families to attend a private school.

Yesterday, Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger unveiled the state Senate’s proposed budget (click to view) which includes funding to meet parental demand for the Opportunity Scholarship Program by an additional 2,000 Opportunity Scholarship grants each school year beginning in 2017-18. This is on top of the current 6,200 students who will use Opportunity Scholarships to attend private schools this fall. If the measure passes, funding for the state program would increase from $34,840,000 in 2017-18 (around 8,000 students) to almost $145 million in 2027-28, or an estimated 35,875 students.

“On behalf of our North Carolina families who are desperately seeking educational choice, I want to thank Senator Berger and leadership for taking this bold step forward to help ensure children can access the school model which best suits them, regardless of their parents’ income or neighborhood,” said Darrell Allison, President of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina. “We are already hearing tremendous success stories from parents whose children have improved by leaps and bounds academically and socially this year thanks to the Opportunity Scholarship Program. However, we also hear from many parents who deeply desire this Program but cannot due to demand. Personally, it’s very moving to see how far the Program has come legislatively and legally to now potentially impacting close to 36,000 children over the next several years.”

In addition to the more than 8,000 new applications which have been submitted, 3,013 students have renewed their scholarship for the upcoming school year, mirroring last year’s trend when 90 percent of Program recipients applied to renew scholarships. Furthermore, there have been 22,323 applications submitted for the Opportunity Scholarship Program since its inception in 2013.

“This year’s application numbers speak for themselves and again show that families don’t care about political party, race, or inconsequential public school versus private debates; they just want the ability to choose the school they think works best for their children,” said Allison. “On behalf of the tens of thousands of families who stand to benefit from this proposed budgetary item, we thank Senator Berger and Senate leadership. It’s our hope that the remaining North Carolina lawmakers will support and stand alongside families who simply want access to the educational model that may best suit their child.”

Passed in July 2013, the Opportunity Scholarship Program 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 pre-eligibility by visiting http://www.schoolchoicenc.org/Qualify2016 but must apply officially through the NCSEAA.

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