Demand for Opportunity Scholarships Shows Strength of Program Heading into Sixth Year
Raleigh (February 20, 2019) – Applications for North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program remain robust heading into the program’s sixth year of operation, reports Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC), the state’s leading school choice advocacy organization.
By February 15, families statewide submitted 4,416 new applications for Opportunity Scholarships for the 2019-2020 school year, according to the latest numbers from the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA). State funding is in place to support 13,100 scholarship seats in the coming school year. Nearly 1,000 applications were submitted during the first five hours of the application period. The program’s priority application period ends March 1, after which point families are awarded based on remaining available funding.
Established in 2013, the Opportunity Scholarship Program provides up to $4,200 a year to enable students from low-income families to attend a private school that best meets their child’s unique needs. In this current school year (2018-2019) there are 9,535 scholarship recipients from each of the state’s 100 counties. More than 45,000 student applications have been submitted since the program’s inception. The average annual household income for a new families receiving an Opportunity Scholarship is $16,213 (according to a report from NC State), making the program a crucial lifeline for low-income families.
“Opportunity Scholarships are a key part of our toolbox here in North Carolina to empower parents with a real choice in their child’s education” said PEFNC President Mike Long. “Opportunity Scholarships prioritize the needs of students and parents above institutions and systems—and that emphasis is precisely where it should be. North Carolina continues leading the way nationally on student- and parent-focused education reform, and the Opportunity Scholarship Program, along with the Disabilities Grant and Special Needs ESA, is a crucial part of our progress.”
Dell Simmons, a parent from Fayetteville, told PEFNC, “The scholarship has made a difference in meeting all of my son’s needs academically and socialization skills and being welcomed and shown love. It’s helped him achieve and become what he was destined to be.”
“As the Opportunity Scholarship Program heads into its sixth year, a huge thanks is due to lawmakers in the General Assembly who have ensured forward funding for the program through the next decade,” Long added. “This gives families the much-needed assurance that the scholarship will be here for years to come, allowing them to plan their child’s educational needs around it. Many of these families are experiencing a real choice in their child’s education for the first time.”
In 2016, to meet anticipated demand, N.C. lawmakers voted to increase program funding by $10 million annually through the 2018-2029 school year. In 2017, the General Assembly enacted a provision requiring that forward-funding for the program is included in the state’s base budget.
“We’re hearing first-hand from families benefiting from the Opportunity Scholarship Program and the response is extremely positive. In fact, PEFNC conducted a parent satisfaction survey late last Fall in which 97% of families surveyed said they were happy with their child’s academic progress at the school or their choice and 99% of families say their child feels safe there,” Long concluded.
PEFNC’s parent satisfaction survey was conducted between November 25 and December 12 and surveyed 1,448 families.
PEFNC is a statewide organization that supports greater educational options through parental school choice, such as public charter schools and the Opportunity Scholarship Program. Our mission is to inform parents of the benefits of expanded options and empower them to exercise freedom in meeting their children’s needs, regardless of race, national origin, income or religion.