Archives

Commentary

School-vouchersICYMI, be sure to check out education reporter Lindsay Wagner’s story this morning over on the main Policy Watch site: “School vouchers: A second look at fraud and abuse.”

As Wagner reports, the disturbing stories from Arizona, Wisconsin and Louisiana — where standards for vouchers are actually tougher in many instances than North Carolina’s — are all-too-common.

For instance:

Arizona implemented a private school tuition tax credit program in 1997. That program was designed to aid low-income families to take advantage of private schools.

A report by the national advocacy group People for the American Way found that over a three-year period, the Arizona scheme has cost the state more than $55 million in funds that have gone largely to subsidize private and religious education for middle- and upper-income families.

And then there’s this:

An investigation by the Wisconsin State Journal has found that Wisconsin’s taxpayers have lost $139 million dollars over the past ten years to private schools that have received funds from the state’s voucher program but were ultimately excluded from participating, thanks to their failure to meet standards relating to finances, accreditation, student safety and auditing.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

News

An investigation by the Wisconsin State Journal has found that Wisconsin’s taxpayers have lost $139 million dollars over the past ten years to private schools that have received funds from the state’s voucher program but were ultimately excluded from participating, thanks to their failure to meet standards relating to finances, accreditation, student safety and auditing.

From the State Journal:

More than two-thirds of the 50 schools terminated from the state’s voucher system since 2004 — all in Milwaukee — had stayed open for five years or less, according to the data provided by the state Department of Public Instruction.

Northside High School, for example, received $1.7 million in state vouchers for low-income students attending the private school before being terminated from the program in its first year in 2006 for failing to provide an adequate curriculum.

Recouping money sent to shuttered schools isn’t a feasible option, since the money is gone, Bender and Olsen said. [Bender is president of School Choice Wisconsin and Olsen (R-Ripon) is the Senate Education Committee Chairman]

Unlike North Carolina’s school voucher program, which is currently in the infancy stage and may or may not survive a court battle in which it has already been declared unconstitutional by a Superior Court judge, Wisconsin’s voucher program has a (relatively) robust set of accountability standards.

To participate in Wisconsin’s school voucher program, schools must do the following, according to the State Journal:

Currently, schools wishing to participate in the program must meet requirements for the training of their staff, obtain academic accreditation, present a complete budget and submit information to DPI about their governing body or policies and contract with a third-party service to handle payroll taxes.

Private schools participating in North Carolina’s voucher program are not required to do any of the things that Wisconsin schools must demonstrate.

Instead,the North Carolina’s private schools are free to hire untrained people to teach, are not required to be accredited or meet any curricular requirements and do not have to share details of their budget or governing body with the state or public. Among the very few requirements they must meet include administering a standardized test annually, complying with health and safety standards and conducting a criminal background check for only the head of the school.

While the courts decide if our state’s voucher program should survive, North Carolina has already disbursed more than a million dollars in taxpayer-funded vouchers to private schools across the state — including $90,300 to Greensboro Islamic Academy, which an N.C. Policy Watch report found to be experiencing significant financial troubles just last year.

Read the full story on Wisconsin’s voucher program here.

 

News

blog-voucherAs Policy Watch just reported, today the state Supreme Court decided to bypass the Court of Appeals and take up for its own review the fight over whether or not North Carolina’s new school voucher program should continue.

In the case Hart v. North Carolina, Superior Court Judge Robert H. Hobgood found the school voucher program to be unconstitutional for several reasons–chiefly that the program uses public funds for private use and that it does not serve a public purpose.

The last stop for the case was with the Court of Appeals, which ruled in late September that the 1,878 students who have already been granted school vouchers can now use those taxpayer dollars at private schools while the Court worked toward a final decision on the program.

That ruling allowed the state to disburse more than $1 million to private schools already — $90,300 of which were sent to financially troubled Greensboro Islamic Academy, the largest recipient of voucher funds to date.

Stay tuned for more developments.

 

News

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. Read More

News

The first million dollars in taxpayer-funded school vouchers have been sent to private and religious schools across North Carolina, the AP reports.

From the News & Observer:

The first million dollars have been sent to private and religious schools across North Carolina while an appeals court considers a judge’s ruling that a new scholarship program for low-income public school children is unconstitutional.

About $1.1 million was distributed last Friday to 109 private schools that accepted students under the Opportunity Scholarships program, State Educational Assistance Authority grants director Elizabeth McDuffie said Monday. That distribution was to cover part of the tuition for 568 students, according to the state agency administering the program.

The schools were primarily Christian, Baptist, Catholic or Islamic. The Greensboro Islamic Academy received the most money, $90,300 for 43 enrolled students. Word of God Christian Academy in Raleigh received $54,600 for 26 students.

Earlier this month, The N.C. Court of Appeals ruled that the 1,878 students who have already been granted school vouchers can now use those taxpayer dollars at private schools while the fate of the program is decided. But the program cannot continue to award vouchers while the case is still tied up in the courts.

An August ruling by Superior Court Judge Robert H. Hobgood found the school voucher law, enacted in 2013, to be unconstitutional, halting a program that as Judge Hobgood said, “appropriates taxpayer funds to educational institutions that have no standards, curriculum and requirements for teachers and principals to be certified.”

Hobgood’s ruling is under appeal by the state’s attorney as well as defendant-intervenors for parents and Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger.

Attorney Robert Orr, who represents the N.C. School Boards Association, told the AP, “everybody’s on notice that the court has already ruled at the trial level it’s unconstitutional. In the long run, if the trial court’s decision is affirmed, then we would look to the state to recover the public’s money. You have to emphasize that it is the public’s money that we’re talking about.”

Read the full story by AP reporter Emery Dalesio here.