Ninety percent of private schools receiving taxpayer-funded vouchers are religious institutions

School-vouchersReligious private schools account for 90 percent of those receiving the state’s new taxpayer-funded school vouchers—a disproportionately high amount given that only 66.4 percent of the state’s 715 private schools are religious institutions.

According to data released by the N.C. State Educational Assistance Authority, 98 out of the 109 private schools that have received vouchers (formally known as Opportunity Scholarships) from the state so far are religious institutions. Ninety-four of those schools identify as Christian, and four other schools identify as Islamic. To date, the state has disbursed just over $1 million to the religious schools.

The largest recipient of school voucher dollars thus far is Greensboro Islamic Academy. The school has received more than $90,000 from taxpayers while information has surfaced indicating that the school is in financial trouble and has inflated its tuition rates to reap as many publicly-funded vouchers as possible to stay afloat.

The Opportunity Scholarship Program, which lawmakers enacted last year, siphons approximately $10.8 million dollars out of the public school system to allow students to attend private and religious schools instead. Each voucher is worth a maximum of $4,200 per student, per year.

Proponents of the program say the voucher program is a way to give low-income students better choices when it comes to their education; critics say it siphons badly needed funds away from public education and funnels them into unaccountable, religious private schools that are not obligated to hold themselves to high quality teaching standards.

In August, a Superior Court judge found that the program violates the state’s constitutional mandate to use public funds only for public schools – but thanks to a Court of Appeals ruling last month, the state must disburse school vouchers that have already been awarded while the case winds its way through the state appellate courts.


  1. Cheryl

    October 9, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    This is a horrible law. I dont want my tax money going to private religious schools. Just think what that 10 million dollars could do for our already stressed public schools and teachers. I think its also ironic that most of the money is going to an Islamic school when our General Assembly has shown their bigiotry to any religion other than Christian. Hopefully this unconstutional law will be repealed.

  2. Jan Blunt

    October 10, 2014 at 11:51 am

    Not to split hairs, but in public education every penny counts. When researching this topic for a WCU MPA Public Policy Analysis class last spring, the NC budget line item figure I saw deducted from public school funding was -$11.8 million, not $10.8 million. Did something change? You could also see where the NCGA put $10 million into the UNC system to provide the “scholarships” for private schools, so as not to “take the money from public schools.” Quite the sleight of hand trick.

  3. Jan Blunt

    October 10, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    From the budget before final approval:
    2 ADM Adjustment: Opportunity Scholarships ($11,797,941) R (recurring)
    “Adjusts FY 2014-15 ADM to reflect the estimated decrease in public
    school enrollment resulting from the Opportunity Scholarship Grants
    authorized by Section 8.29 of this act. (H.B. 944; S.L. 2013-360, Sec.
    (A related item establishing the Scholarships appears in the UNC
    section of the Committee Report. See page F-37, Item 64.)

Check Also

Changing hats, but my focus remains on education

Dear NC Policy Watch readers, It’s been a ...

Top Stories from NCPW

  • News
  • Commentary

The controversy over “Silent Sam,” the Confederate monument on UNC’s Chapel Hill campus, has been ra [...]

North Carolina tries to mine its swine and deal with a poop problem that keeps piling up A blanket o [...]

This story is part of "Peak Pig," an examination of the hog industry co-published with Env [...]

Few issues in the North Carolina’s contentious policy wars have been more consistently front and cen [...]

Five years ago, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a jaw-dropping civil rights lawsuit again [...]

Will Burr and Tillis really vote for this? For much of the 20th Century, one of the labels that Amer [...]

President Trump and Congressional Republicans aim to rebrand enormous tax cuts for the wealthiest ho [...]

20—number of years since a bipartisan coalition in Congress passed the Children’s Health Insurance P [...]

Spotlight on Journalism

We invite you to join a special celebration of investigative journalism! The evening will feature Mike Rezendes, a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe Spotlight Team known for their coverage of the cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Tickets available NOW!

Spotlight On Journalism

This event will benefit NC Policy Watch, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center. Sponsorship opportunities available now!

Featured | Special Projects

NC Budget 2017
The maze of the NC Budget is complex. Follow the stories to follow the money.
Read more

NC Redistricting 2017
New map, new districts, new lawmakers. Here’s what you need to know about gerrymandering in NC.
Read more