As a single mother living in Greensboro North Carolina, Laura Hundley enjoyed sending her son Cannon to private school. Due to the financial costs of the school and separating from her husband, she had to withdraw Cannon from the school he loved.
According to Laura, her son Cannon blossomed in Wesleyan Christian Academy. From Laura’s perspective, private school teachers demand respect from their students. Also, Wesleyan Christian Academy teaches morals, ethics and virtues. The same values that are taught in school are reinforced at home. The teachers in the private school also offer a better education. The teachers often assess and re-teach material if students are struggling. “When it takes the public schools three weeks to teach, students learn in three days in private school. My son comes out of public school saying it is not Wesleyan.”
Despite her problems, Laura remains optimistic because of North Carolina’s school voucher program. “I’ve been following these programs and appropriations for the last three years. This program is like a dream come true. This grant would allow him to return to private school.”
Wake County Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood placed a temporary hold on North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program. Judge Hobgood’s injunction means that families must wait for the courts to sort through the legal challenges involving the state’s school voucher program.
At this point, over 4,000 low-income parents have already applied for North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarships in hopes of choosing a better education for their children. The voucher amount is up to $4,200 per child. Before Hobgood’s ruling, North Carolina planned to hold a lottery in March to award over 2, 400 vouchers for the 2014-15 school term. The lawsuit claims the voucher program short changes public schools, diverting funds from public schools to private schools. Also, opponents of the voucher program argue that spending taxpayer money on private schools is unconstitutional. Regardless, the families that have applied for vouchers have retained legal counsel to fight for this program.
“The text of the NC constitution does not prohibit the legislature from providing NC families with additional educational opportunities,” said Dick Komer. Komer is a Senior Attorney at the Institute of Justice and is representing the families that have applied to state’s voucher program. “Opportunities in addition to that of attending the general and uniform system of free public schools, he said. “There are some funds that can only be spent on the public school system and that system must meet the standards of the Leandro case, but there is no prohibition on spending general revenues to do more.”
In Leandro versus North Carolina, several individuals challenged the fairness of the state’s distribution of school finances based on North Carolina’s constitution, in the name of equal opportunity. Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning’s decision was that every child in the state has a constitutional right to a sound basic education that quality of education, not equal opportunity should determine whether a student’s rights are violated. For example, a student should have “sufficient ability to read, write, and speak English, and a sufficient knowledge of fundamental mathematics and physical science to enable a student to function in a complex and rapidly changing society. Where does North Carolina stand? Let’s take a look at the state current academic picture.
- Only 30 percent of low-income children in North Carolina demonstrate proficiency on state tests.
- According to Education Week’s Quality Counts’ report, only 35 percent of North Carolina’s fourth grade students receive a proficient score on the reading section of the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP).
- Also, (based on the same report) only 45 percent of North Carolina’s fourth grade students score proficient on the math section of NAEP
- North Carolina’s public schools spend $8,200 per student, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
The irony is that there is a voucher program in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Children’s Scholarship Fund (CSF) is a private scholarship program started in 2000. CSF awards scholarships to Mecklenburg County Families that qualify for Federal Free and Reduced Price Program. The maximum award is $2,500 per child and the program supports 400 children each year.
In analysis conducted by Jay Greene of the University of Arkansas, low-income black scholarship recipients had a combined reading and math scores six percentile points higher than their control group after only one year of schooling in 2000. In another evaluation, Joshua Cowen found similar gains for scholarship recipients in a follow-up study produced in 2007. Also, North Carolinians embrace school choice.
- According to a survey commissioned by The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, nearly 6 of 10 North Carolina voters (57 percent) said they support school vouchers, compared to 32 percent of voters who said they oppose such a school choice system.
- North Carolina voters are more likely to favor charter schools (57 percent) than oppose such schools (15 percent).
North Carolina has a chance to provide a vital lifeline for students in under performing public schools. School choice is about empowering families with options in how and where their children receive an education. This battle is not only vital for North Carolina, but for everyone who believes in liberty. School choice provides an importunity bridge to the realization of opportunity, prosperity and the realization of the American dream.