Archives

It’s been  a year of radical and frequently destructive change in the world of public education in North Carolina and Policy Watch reporter Lindsay Wagner has a great summary of nine top stories over on the main site. For example:

1. Tax dollars now can be funneled to unaccountable private (and home) schools.

Lawmakers passed a budget last July that allows parents to send their kids to private schools with annual taxpayer-funded $4,200 vouchers. Dubbed “Opportunity Scholarships,” the program was championed by Rep. Skip Stam, who believes that all parents should be able to send their kids to any school on the taxpayer’s dime—even if that school teaches kids that dinosaurs walked the earth with man or the KKK was just a band of moral-minded folks.

On tap for 2014: We’ll keep you posted on the roll out of the school voucher program, which will begin accepting applications in February in anticipation of its Fall 2014 start date. Stay tuned for developments in the school voucher lawsuit that was just filed by 25 teachers who oppose using taxpayer dollars to fund private education. And read my most recent story about one home school that’s classified as a private school by the state, allowing it to receive vouchers too.

Click here to read the other eight.

Equality NCAs the Wilmington Star-News reports this morning, protesters led by advocates from Equality NC (that’s the group’s Executive Director, Chris Sgro pictured at left) spoke out yesterday in favor of a law change that would prevent taxpayer-funded school vouchers from going to schools that discriminate against LGBT children and the children of LGBT parents.

“A statewide gay rights group wants the General Assembly to change its new tuition voucher program so schools with policies that exclude gay people won’t receive taxpayer funding.

Members of the gay rights group Equality N.C. spoke out Tuesday against a policy recently adopted by Myrtle Grove Christian School that requires students’ families to promise they won’t support or participate in a gay lifestyle. The faith group N.C. Values Coalition also released a statement Tuesday supporting Myrtle Grove Christian School’s right to set its own admission policies. Read More

Rep. Marcus Brandon, a key proponent of private school voucher legislation that made it through the General Assembly last summer, told NC Policy Watch that private Christian schools adopting policies that discriminate against gay students should not receive any taxpayer funds.

“I don’t believe they should get one dollar of taxpayer money,” said Brandon, a democratic lawmaker from Guilford County, in reaction to the news that Myrtle Grove Christian School in Wilmington just adopted a policy that excludes gay students and students from gay families from enrolling or continuing to attend their school. Read More

The Star News in Wilmington reports that Myrtle Grove Christian School, which is eligible to receive taxpayer-funded private school vouchers beginning with the 2014-15 school year, will also begin denying admission or continued enrollment to gay students and children from gay families in 2014.

All students’ families will be forced to sign a policy that says they will not support or participate in homosexual activity.

A letter outlining this policy change said:

“The school reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission of an applicant or discontinue enrollment of a student if the atmosphere or conduct within a particular home or the activities of a student are counter to or are in opposition to the Biblical lifestyle the school teaches.”

Myrtle Grove Christian School is listed in the Division of Non-Public Education’s Directory of Non-Public Schools, which means it will be eligible to receive taxpayer-funded private school vouchers in 2014.

The Wilmington Faith and Values website has an interesting post up about the intersection of discriminatory practices like Myrtle Grove’s and the school’s eligibility for taxpayer funds, in addition to examining other Wilmington private schools’ policies on homosexuality.

The NC State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA) began accepting applications on October 1 for the Special Education Scholarship Grants for Children with Disabilities program. As of last week, the NCSEAA has received 248 applications submitted by parents wishing to receive $3,000 in taxpayer funds per semester for their special needs children to attend private and home schools in the state.

“We will begin notifying parents of their award status right around November 15,” said Elizabeth McDuffie, Director of Grants, Training and Outreach for the NCSEAA. Those who are awarded the grants will receive reimbursement checks to apply toward tuition, fees and other related expenses incurred for the spring 2014 semester. The program should be able to accommodate roughly 875 students, depending on award amounts.

Private and home schools in North Carolina are largely unregulated, but they do have to comply with minimal state regulations, including providing evidence of fire and safety inspections, immunization records and standardized test results. The Division of Non-Public Education (DNPE) publishes annually a list of private and home schools that are in compliance with state law.

NCSEAA is relying on the list that DNPE posted for the academic year 2012-13, in addition to their lists of recently closed and opened schools, as their list of eligible nonpublic schools to which parents can send their children with special needs and receive disability scholarships.

NC Policy Watch previously reported that DNPE’s list of recognized private schools includes a number that employ just one teacher and a handful of students. The director of DNPE, David Mills, told NC Policy Watch that those schools were just starting out and possibly catering to accelerated students or students with disabilities.

“We are aware of those schools,” said McDuffie, after a long pause when asked whether these schools raise a red flag with NCSEAA. “They do qualify according to the statute.” Read More