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House committee members vote to include $50 million in budget for private school vouchers

Members of the House appropriations committee gathered today to debate their proposed budget for 2013-15.

The budget includes all of the language from the school voucher bill, or HB 944 Opportunity Scholarship Act, which would siphon $50 million over two years from public education and funnel that money to private schools.

Rep. Chris Whitmire, a Republican from Transylvania County, put forth an amendment that would have removed the school voucher language from the budget, calling the voucher bill a “Trojan horse” that would have brought the government into private settings and had not been fully vetted by the entire House.

Whitmire also cited the fact that in many rural, low-income areas, there are no private schools to provide the kind of school choice that the voucher bill aims to support.

The bill’s sponsors, Reps. Bryan and Brandon, joined several other lawmakers to oppose the amendment, pointing to vouchers’ success in Charlotte and research that indicates other voucher programs in the nation positively affect student outcomes.

Rep. Rick Glazier stood to support removing school vouchers from the budget, pointing out that the legislature is having a hard enough time funding our first system of public education, and that it would be even harder to fund a second system of education.

Chair of the House education committee and lifelong educator Rep. James Langdon said that school vouchers are a step in the wrong direction.

The amendment to remove school vouchers from the budget failed 38-48. The full House will consider the budget with school vouchers, unless another amendment is brought forth prior to the committee’s adjournment.

Also of note thus far in the House budget debate:

  • Rep. George Cleveland put forth an amendment that would have put the language from HB 239, a bill that died in the House Education Committee, back into the budget. The bill would repeal in-state tuition for out-of-state scholarship students and includes those receiving the prestigious Morehead scholar program. His amendment failed, just barely.
  • Rep. Rick Glazier put forth an amendment that would have saved supplemental pay for school nurses by removing the money in the budget tagged for PEFNC to develop charter schools in rural areas. Facing pushback from GOP members, Glazier briefly tabled his amendment while he searched for an alternative funding source for the amendment. Ultimately the amendment passed with the provision that money for the supplemental funding would be found at a later date.
  • Rep. Mickey Michaux put forth an amendment to reinstate supplemental pay for teachers holding masters degrees. The amendment failed.
  • Another amendment put forward to put the money tagged for PEFNC into textbooks also failed.
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