Commentary

Editorial skewers Berger on school voucher claims

Sen. Phil Berger

If you get a chance, be sure to check out this morning’s Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com, “Twisting the truth won’t make private school voucher program accountable.” The editorial takes state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger to task for a recent missive in which he issued all manner of dire warnings about supposed efforts by Democrats to “siphon” money away from the “Opportunity Scholarship” program and give it to the state’s “largest and wealthiest school districts.” This is from the editorial:

Here is the truth. No one in North Carolina – not a single child — who qualified for the so-called “Opportunity Scholarship” private school vouchers, has been denied a dime. In fact, in the current school year, of the $54.84 million available for the vouchers, $35.56 million has been obligated. More than a third of the money won’t get used to help educate anyone.

While the legislature built in an automatic $10 million annual increase in voucher funding, the amount spent this year was EVEN LESS than the total allotment — $44.84 million last year. Last year more than a third of the money set aside went unused.

The editorial then points out that the bill assailed by Berger and Sen. Deanna Ballard would simply take money sitting idle and put it to use helping students in accountable public schools. Here’s the conclusion:

They DO NOT PROPOSE cutting funding for private school vouchers, rather eliminating the automatic increases – money that isn’t needed for the vouchers.

With the proposed legislation, North Carolina taxpayers will have a better idea of how their education tax dollars are spent. The money will go for construction projects at public schools which by law are required to show how the funds are spent and also demonstrate whether students are learning in their classrooms.

Despite Sen. Ballard’s claim in the release that she is “committed to ensure all our kids receive the chance to reach their full potential” there’s no way she can possibly know if voucher kids are fulfilling their potential.

That’s because there is an irresponsible lack of transparency and accountability demanded from schools that are receiving voucher funds. These private schools have no requirement to show the money goes to provide classroom instruction, books or supplies. These schools do not even have to show that the kids receiving scholarships even show up for class.

Twisting the truth doesn’t make private school vouchers a more worthy government program. Allowing the program to become a slush fund where tens of millions of education tax dollars sit idle is irresponsible.

If Phil Berger and his fellow legislative leaders truly cared about the state’s school children and accountability, they would praise and thank Marcus, Searcy and Nickel for their diligence and concern. They’d also apologize for their misdirected scorn and mockery.

Click here to read the entire editorial.

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