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One of the things people rightfully dislike about their government is when they are not told the truth. Sadly, in the ongoing debate about North Carolina’s new school voucher plan many politicians have been doing just that.

In an apparent effort to lessen the controversy, some legislators have been claiming that that it is “essentially a pilot program.” It is not. The “Opportunity Scholarship Act” is a full-blown government program similar to ones that have failed miserably in several jurisdictions. It has no expiration date and its sponsors have made plain their intention to expand it.

In explaining the education budget, one state senator wrote:

In regards to the Opportunity Scholarship Act, this is a pilot program for low income families.  Many children in low income families are forced to attend low-performing schools because they do not have the opportunity that wealthier families have to move to better schools.  We simply want to make sure that everybody has the same opportunity to succeed; it is by no means a sign that lawmakers lack confidence in our public schools.

At least four obvious responses deserve mention: Read More

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The good folks at Public Schools First NC have issued a scathing review of the budget deal:

Public Schools First NC urges reconsideration of brutal cuts to public education
Proposed budget fails students and families while undermining North Carolina’s economic foundation

Raleigh, NC—July 22, 2013—Public Schools First NC is disappointed by the General Assembly’s aggressive attack against public education in its proposed biennial budget. By syphoning public dollars away for private school vouchers, slashing funds for teaching assistants, eliminating teacher professionalism and increasing class size, the budget strikes at the heart of proven strategies that lead to strong schools; adequate funding, small class sizes, and experienced educators. Read More

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School vouchersIn 2012, many of the politicians who now control the North Carolina General Assembly ran on pledges of “fiscal conservatism” and reducing government spending. Indeed, many prominent members of the current majority continue to style themselves as “common-sense fiscal conservatives.”

There’s a disappointing lack of common sense, however, in the proposed “Opportunity Scholarships” program included in the current House budget. The program would provide school vouchers—up to $4,200 each—for K-12 students to attend private schools instead of traditional public schools. The current budget proposal appropriates $10 million for the program in the first year, and jumps to $40 million for the second. In a time of huge cuts to our public school system, there is no common sense in taking much needed resources from our students and teachers and asking them again to somehow do more with less.

Instead of being fiscally conservative, this voucher scheme is fiscally irresponsible, since it will cost the state money every year after the first. In fact, the larger the program becomes, the more money it will lose for North Carolinians. Read More

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Given all the hubbub around school vouchers being slipped into the NC House budget proposal last month, you might have missed that a few weeks ago members of a U.S. Senate committee voted down an amendment to the ESEA/NCLB Act that would have allowed states to turn Title I funding into school voucher programs.

The amendment, authored by U.S. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.), would have allowed states to have Title I federal funds follow low-income students to private and religious schools.

Title I funds are currently directed to schools that serve low-income students. To understand just how much North Carolina’s public schools rely on Title 1 funding, consider this: in 2012, NC’s public school districts received a total of $405,272,019 in Title I funds. That’s nearly half of all federal funding North Carolina receives annually and around 5 percent of the state’s total budget for education last year.

That’s a lot of money when compared with the voucher bill currently in the state budget proposal, which would cost North Carolina’s public schools at least $50 million over two years.
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