Governor Cooper Wanted to Eliminate Opportunity Scholarship Program

Major disconnect between Governor and low-income working families who rely on scholarships

Raleigh (August 5, 2019)– Mike Long, President of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC), released the following statement today in response to Governor Roy Cooper’s appearance on Education Matters over the weekend. Governor Cooper said that he vetoed the budget, in part, due to “unaccountable private-school vouchers” that “siphon money away from our public schools.” He further claimed that “we have no way of knowing if the students who are going to these private schools are getting the kind of education that they need.” The Governor also admitted that he wanted to eliminate funding for the program.

“Governor Cooper likes to talk about accountability, so I am wondering why the Governor is not being held accountable for misleading the public about this critically important program empowering low-income working families, many for the first time ever, with a choice in their child’s education. His commentary once again proves how disconnected he is on the Opportunity Scholarship Program—ignoring these families who rely on the scholarship to have equal access to the school of their choice,” said Long.

Opportunity Scholarships are first-and-foremost accountable to the parents and families who are choosing to enroll their child in the private school of their choice. “We must put the needs of families and students above those of archaic institutions and systems,” Long added. “Yet Governor Cooper is doing the exact opposite—by prioritizing a one-size-fits-all option, he is denying equal access to a quality education for all families in North Carolina. That’s a shame.”

“Why are 20 percent of North Carolina families (around 350,000 students) choosing options other than their locally zoned public school district? It is because 21st century families expect options. They don’t like being forced into a school that does not fit their child’s needs simply because of their zip code.”

The Opportunity Scholarship program does not “siphon money away from our public schools,” as the Governor would lead us to believe. In fact, the program saves the state millions of tax dollars that may be used to improve all schools.

According to a recent analysis from the General Assembly’s Fiscal Research Division, the Opportunity Scholarship Program actually saved the state of North Carolina $2,354 per student during the 2017-2018 fiscal year, for a total savings of $17.3 million. Additionally, Opportunity Scholarships are funded through the UNC-System budget, not the Department of Public Instruction budget. Read more here.

Governor Cooper claims that “there hasn’t been that much of a demand for it,” in reference to the Opportunity Scholarship Program. On the contrary:

  • For the coming school year (2019-2020) 11,790 new applicants were submitted
  • Since the program's inception (2014) nearly 58,000 applications have been submitted
  • Currently, 9,651 students utilize an Opportunity Scholarship

Governor Cooper should listen to families like these who are benefiting from Opportunity Scholarships:

  • “The Opportunity Scholarship has changed my children’s lives.” — Amanda, Charlotte
  • “Because of the Opportunity Scholarship Program, my children no longer cry about going to school. They love school.” — Adrianna, Winston-Salem
  • "The Opportunity Scholarship Program has changed my child's life and made him thrive in his education." — Megan, Mocksville
  • "The Opportunity Scholarship allows my children to be in a safe and loving academic atmosphere." — Amanda, Statesville

“It is one thing to have a robust debate about education in our state, but what the Governor is doing is simply one-sided bullying against a program that he and his political allies do not like. That is a shame, given the thousands of low-income working families across our state whose lives are being liberated as a result of this program.  If only he would consider them too,” concluded Long.