Last week legislation was introduced to provide $1 billion of your tax dollars to pay to send children, regardless of a family’s financial or educational need, to any private school of the parents’ choosing.
House Bill 420, filed by state Reps. Donnie Loftis, David Willis, John Bradford and Allen Chesser, goes much further than the existing private school vouchers (known as “Opportunity Scholarships”) based upon income to pay for education in private and religious schools and provide allotments to parents who home-school children. This money has never been fully utilized. Each year millions of tax dollars remain unspent that could be best used for our kids in public schools.
House Bill 420 would allow all families to use taxpayer dollars to fund tuition at private and parochial schools. There are no requirements that these schools, in the same way public schools must, demonstrate students are learning nor are there requirements to provide transportation or free/reduced lunches. These schools also have the authority to deny access to students based on religion, identity and academic achievement.
Impact on Rural Communities
The removal of $1 billion in public school funds to go to private schools will be devastating for our public schools already struggling to make ends meet due to inadequate and inequitable funding from the state. In nearly half the counties in North Carolina, school districts are, and shifting these funds to homeschooling or private schools would have a significant negative impact on the local economy.
North Carolina has the nation’s second-highest rural student population. Rural schools that are already struggling with the lack of a strong local tax base other districts rely on to supplement state-appropriated school funding would be hit the hardest by this legislation. Rural areas — 80 of our 100 counties — could lose their schools as hubs of their neighborhoods, communities and towns.
Similar legislation in Texas has been met with push-back by over 300 rural school leaders concerned over the likely negative impact on academics as well as school sports and arts programs — the core of the cultural and social fiber of many communities. Additionally, continuing educational opportunities for high school graduates could be be dramatically impacted.
Rural, suburban, and urban districts will all face many additional impacts, including:
- Potential for Fraud: While public schools have many requirements to ensure responsible spending of taxpayer dollars, when public funds are used for private schooling, it is complicated to ensure that the money is being spent on education. Other states have seen rampant fraud following legislation similar to HB420 including taxpayer dollars being used to fund living expenses and even medical procedures.
- Incompatibility with Families’ Beliefs: The vast majority of schools currently receiving Opportunity Scholarship voucher dollars are religious, and those schools may take actions that are in opposition to parents’ views or deny admission based on a family’s religious choices or sexual orientation. One private school in Fayetteville made the news in 2022 after 100 students were baptized without the consent of their parents. That school received nearly $1.2 million in taxpayer dollars this year. Several of the schools receiving over $1 million in taxpayer-funded vouchers this year forbid students or educators who identify as LGBTQ to be affiliated with the school.
- Lack of Accountability: Taxpayers deserve to know how our taxpayer dollars are being spent. Our public schools are held accountable for students’ academic outcomes and must provide data on attendance, attendance, academic achievement and more. discipline, and are held accountable for students’ academic outcomes. Our current voucher system only requires school-selected test scores the be reported if over 25 students who receive vouchers attend the same school.
North Carolina has over 1.4 million students in our traditional and charter public schools. NC public schools serve every child, and provide vast choices and services, including support for students with specific needs, magnet programs, dual language immersion schools, career pathway academies, early college high schools and more. The are even dual enrollment options for those wishing to get college credit while in high school.
Businesses, communities, families and most importantly students will suffer if we siphon more taxpayer money to private education. We, as the people of North Carolina, have to decide and let our lawmakers know how we want our tax dollars to be spent. Do we value public education as an institution that serves all children in our state, or do we further subsidize private options for a select few?
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