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Private school voucher program begins accepting applications as questions of accountability remain

More than 1,400 families have submitted applications for approximately 2,100 “Opportunity Scholarships” since the new school voucher program began accepting applications this past Saturday, February 1, according to the NC State Education Assistance Authority, the entity tasked with administering the program.

An estimated 2,400 taxpayer-funded school vouchers are available to North Carolina students for use at private schools beginning Fall 2014. Elizabeth McDuffie, Director of Grants, Training and Outreach for NCSEAA, said that while some who have already applied do not meet eligibility criteria, she anticipates that by the priority deadline of February 25, the number of eligible applicants will exceed the number of vouchers up for grabs.

For the first time in its history, North Carolina will allow taxpayer funds to go to largely unaccountable private schools, 70 percent of which are religious institutions. Last year, lawmakers tagged $10 million of the state budget for vouchers, which will be worth up to $4,200 annually for eligible families.

Opponents of school vouchers have filed lawsuits against the state seeking to stop the program. More than 50 local school boards have signed on as plaintiffs in the NC School Boards Association’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of school vouchers.

As NC Policy Watch has reported previously, questions of accountability, transparency and quality arise with school vouchers. There are minimal requirements for private schools when it comes to student assessment, and no standards at all for curricula, instructional staff and public accounting of the schools’ financial viability. Private schools can also pick and choose who they want to admit to their institutions.

There are a number of state-recognized private schools in North Carolina that employ fewer than three teachers and school less than 10 students. One private school in High Point looks more like a home school, with one teacher that instructs three students out of her house — and those students could be eligible for school vouchers this fall.

Private schools listed here will have to meet a set of requirements in order to participate in the school voucher program. Those steps include: provide a criminal background report for the head of the school (but not for any of its teachers); provide the school’s graduation rates; provide a copy of its tuition and fees policies and schedules; promise to provide each voucher student’s parents an annual written report of the student’s progress; and promise to administer a nationally standardized test once a year.

Additionally, private schools that enroll more than 25 voucher students must provide test score data on the aggregate to the NCSEAA, and private schools that accept more than $300,000 tax dollars must present the findings of a financial audit.

The NCSEAA will conduct a random lottery to determine which of the applicants that apply before the February 25 priority deadline will be awarded one of the ~2,400 vouchers.

6 Comments

  1. LayintheSmakDown

    February 4, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    Very misleading headline. If the children are not being educated by the school….the parents search out an alternative. Which is how they wound up looking for an alternative to the usual government school in the first place. It is the free market at work, and the student is no worse off….not being well educated by the government…..potentially not being educated by the charter school. I don’t see a difference other than the hysteria over losing (only half the funds by the way) a bit of money and (probably more important) the power of indoctrination.

  2. Alan

    February 5, 2014 at 8:07 am

    The constant drone of anti-government nonsense posted here by the extreme right wing explains precisely why it’ll be many years (if ever) before they win the popular vote. This sort of hogwash may play well with the Faux News couch potatoes who simply don’t know any better, but anyone with > 2 brain cells knows public education is under attack by the GOP with the sole intent of privatizing public education. Not, I may add, to better the standard of education, but all in the name of their so-called “free market” competition.

    I’d love to know what this public school “indoctrination” is the right wing Crazy Talk Express keeps talking about? Would it be the “fact” planet earth is only 6000 years old, or would it be the “fact” that humans and dinosaurs co-existed? Or would it be, wait for it….. the “fact” that their Lord and Savior (Ronnie Reagan) single handedly brought down communism?

  3. GOP Rules

    February 5, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    Good point LSD. There is just as much accountablity at a charter school. The main objection here is that the government is not the sole provider of standards and accountability and holding all the power.

  4. LayintheSmakDown

    February 5, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    Well,
    As far as indoctrination….my daughter just got a reading assignment that was pretty one sided on Thurgood Marshall as an example. I had to sit down to counter some of the propaganda. There are many, many assignments that I have to go in to tell the other side of the story in almost every subject. My kids constantly get junk filled assignments on all the liberal topics such as race, global warming, sustainability, economics that are only one sided. I really don’t look forward to when they hit real history classes and I have to go over what history really happened.

  5. Alan

    February 7, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    LSD,

    I haven’t seen any “propoganda” in NC public schools. Nice that you regard “race” as a liberal topic, speaks volumes about the GOP’s attitude to non-whites. And really, “global warming” as “junk filled assignments”. You do realize there is NO debate on the topic of global warming, only here in the US is there any so-called debate, spouted by Faux News and funded by the fossil fuel industry. No wonder the rest of the world laughs at us.

  6. Vicky

    February 16, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    This is not for low income families. If that was true they would discriminate against children from low income families that sacrifice to send their kid(s) to private schools. I was told if your child(ren) attends a private school now you are disqualified automatically. That is so wrong on many levels. If it is for low income families then your income would be concidered. It would be more fair to do a $1000 tax credit to each child that attends a private school all year than the state paying for a few children tuition and fees. In some cases this will cover everything for a year. If they are going to do this then at least be fair and don’t discriminate againt kids that is already in a private school. Don’t assume parents can afford it because some really do sacrifice and to without to let their kids go to a private school. My child went to a public school for driver education and the very first day was asked did she want some drugs. She was so upset and said she was thankful i sacrifice for her to go to a private shcool.