Grateful for ‘opportunity’ this Thanksgiving season

By Mike Long

We’re entering the season of thankfulness. And while we’re grateful for so many things—family and friends, a roof over our heads, enough food to eat, and much more—this Thanksgiving season I can’t help but think about a word that I’ve heard over-and-over again from families in our state.


You see, there are hundreds of thousands of our neighborhoods across the great state of North Carolina who don’t have opportunity. Specifically, who don’t have opportunity to get a great education.

But thankfully, that number is far lower than it would have been due to the NC Opportunity Scholarship Program. These scholarships provide up to $4,200 each year for low-income and working-class families to attend the private school of their choice. Often times, these families are escaping their locally zoned school that isn’t serving their needs.

Currently, just a sliver of NC’s state budget (about $51 million out of $24 billion) goes to support scholarships for low-income families and those with students with special needs. While supporters of the educational status quo so ardently focus on ending these programs, they won’t stop to listen to the families who benefit from them.

Families like these:

  • Ashley from Fayetteville: "My 7th grader struggled in public school all through elementary and at the beginning of middle school. But after getting the Opportunity Scholarship, her grades have improved, and she is happier and more social.”
  • Amy from Charlotte: "I'm so thankful for the Opportunity Scholarship—it has allowed a safer and better academic environment for my child."
  • Mary from Greensboro: "Without the Opportunity Scholarship Program, my special-needs son would be back in public school with no friends, no social interactions, in the back of the class, and picked on. He finally has friends now.”
  • Maggie from Fayetteville: "My son was in a public school that tore him down mentally. Now, thanks to the Opportunity Scholarship Program, he is thriving, happy, and excited to go to school.”
  • Lakesha from Winston-Salem: "I appreciate the Opportunity Scholarship Program because it has given my children a chance to learn in a bully-free, non-judgmental environment."
  • Brandi from Greensboro: “I’m grateful for the Opportunity Scholarship Program so that my child can attend a school where he’s no longer bullied and falling behind.”

The bottom line is that we as a state need to empower parents to make the best decision regarding their child’s education. We need to give them the freedom to choose. After all, who knows better than the parent?

It might surprise some to know that Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC) is very much pro public schools. I’m a product of Durham County schools myself. Members of our staff specifically choose to send their kids to local public schools. For most families in NC, public schools are the right choice.

Our goal at PEFNC isn’t to dismantle public education, but to make it better—reflecting a 21st century reality. We want to give all families in NC the opportunity to attend the school of their choosing.

There’s that word again: “opportunity.” This Thanksgiving, let’s be thankful that well over 10,000 hard-working NC families now have an opportunity thanks to the Opportunity Scholarship Program.