fbpx

Over-funded Opportunity Scholarship vouchers continue to drain resources from underfunded public schools

Data from the North Carolina Education Assistance Authority shows that North Carolina’s largest voucher program, the Opportunity Scholarship, was over-funded by approximately $16.3 million in FY 2017-18. The state appropriated $44.8 million to subsidize tuition costs for students attending private schools last fiscal year, but issued only $28.1 million in vouchers.

That $16.3 million is money that could have otherwise been put to productive use in our public schools. Per student funding for North Carolina’s public schools remains five percent below pre-Recession levels when adjusted for inflation. Our schools receive fewer teachers, instructional support personnel, and assistant principals than they did prior to the 2010 change in General Assembly leadership. Funding for textbooks, supplies, and teacher assistants are all down more than 35 percent from pre-Recession levels.

Despite the lack of demand for the program, legislators increased funding for the Opportunity Scholarship program by an additional 22 percent ($10 million) for FY 2018-19. Funding increases continue to outpace demand. As a result, the level of voucher funding that will sit untouched is likely to increase to about $19.3 million in FY 2018-19.

Absent action from the General Assembly, funding for the under-subscribed program is set to increase by $10 million per year through FY 2027-28. The Opportunity Scholarship voucher program is the only educational initiative for K-12 students with guaranteed funding increases.

Of course, the financial hit to North Carolina’s public schools extends beyond the millions of dollars sitting needlessly unused in state coffers. Researchers from NC State found that nearly half of all families who applied for, but failed to receive a voucher, ended up sending their child to a private school anyway. That implies that almost half of the $54.8 million of Opportunity Scholarship funding is being wasted, subsidizing activities that people were going to do anyway. The remaining $28 million or so is also wasted if the voucher students are getting a worse education in private schools. Unfortunately, policymakers refuse to allow any serious evaluation of the program.

[Correction: This post originally estimated the over-funding at $16.8 million per year. Subsequent data showed the actual level of over-funding at $16.3 million]
Load More Related Articles
Load More By Kris Nordstrom
Load More In Commentary

Top Stories from NCPW

  • News
  • Commentary

It's been more than 50 years since the iconic slogan "Fly the Friendly Skies" was first… [...]

Don McQueen, operator of Three Rivers Academy, allegedly padded enrollment numbers, paid families so students would… [...]

Another potential change in the date of North Carolina’s 2022 primary election, this one initiated by… [...]

With American Rescue Plan funds, EPA targets sites in Charlotte, Gastonia, Yadkinville and Jacksonville; here's what… [...]

The post G.O.Pinocchio. appeared first on NC Policy Watch. [...]

Saturday, January 22nd, is the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision… [...]

The subject of inflation has been on many tongues in the public policy world of late… [...]

The post MLK’s Dream. McConnell’s nightmare. appeared first on NC Policy Watch. [...]

Now Hiring

The North Carolina Justice Center is seeking a Courts, Law & Democracy Reporter for NC Policy Watch, to investigate, analyze and report on the federal and state judicial systems. This position will cover criminal and civil justice issues in the General Assembly and executive branch agencies, issues related to elections and voting, and other topics.

APPLY HERE.