(Cross-posted from Facing South, the blog of the Institute for Southern Studies).
By Sue Sturgis
North Carolina lawmakers are moving ahead with plans to establish an indirect voucher system that would help low-income children attend private or religious schools with public funds — and they are doing so with the financial support of billionaire school-privatization advocates from outside the state.
The North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship Program would allow corporations to donate to nonprofits that would provide scholarships of up to $4,000 per student. In turn, the corporations would receive tax credits allowing them to divert a total of up to $40 million of their state taxes next year, and even more in the future.
While proponents of the approach say it improves educational access, critics charge that the programs — which are based on a model drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-wing corporate interest group funded in part by the billionaire Koch brothers — drain money from public coffers to benefit private institutions.
Kevin Welner, a professor of education at the University of Colorado, wrote a book on the tax-credit scholarship programs, now operating in eight states including Florida and Georgia, in which he described them as “neovouchers” — distinguishing them from traditional voucher programs that directly provide public funding for private schools and that consequently have run into legal trouble because of the constitutional prohibition on public funding for religious education.