In the News

As the source for parental school choice in our state, PEFNC is often asked to provide commentary on educational choice.

Enrollment at traditional public schools declines for the first time since pandemic

By Chantal Brown

November 28, 2023

Public school enrollment has increased slightly in North Carolina since the last school year. However, for the first time since the pandemic, traditional public schools observed a decrease in students while charter school enrollment continues to rise. 

In October, the state Department of Public Instruction released its first look at how many students are in the state’s public schools for the 2023-24 school year. 

According to the state’s most recent numbers, traditional public schools lost 0.4% of students from last year to this year and are down 3.6% overall from before COVID-19. Charter schools gained 4.5% over last year and are up 24.6% from before the pandemic.

School Choice for Eastern North Carolina

By Dawn Baldwin Gibson

October 14, 2023

The landscape for school choice in North Carolina has drastically changed in our state after the NC General Assembly passed its budget. There has been much debate and heated rhetoric around this issue. However, it is important to share the facts about the expanded school choice opportunities most specifically the Opportunity Scholarship.

Over the coming months, this column will seek to provide a clear and concise view of the school choice landscape. After the global pandemic of COVID19, parents have explored their educational options that have included: charter, home, private and public schools.

North Carolina becomes ninth state to approve universal school choice

By David Hicks

October 6, 2023

North Carolina lawmakers have approved a sweeping expansion of its Opportunity Scholarship Program, providing more school choice for children in The Tar Heel State. In doing so, the state joins Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Florida, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, and West Virginia in approving universal school choice; expanding educational opportunities for more families.

The Republican-led legislature passed the expansion of the program, begun in 2014. Democrat Governor Roy Cooper, an opponent of school choice, announced he will allow the legislation to become law without his signature. Interestingly, Governor Cooper, like Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, opposes school choice for all but his family.

Teacher raises, school lunches, early graduation, AI, career development. Here's what's in the NC budget for education

By Emily Walkenhorst

September 22, 2023

The $30 billion state budget includes new policies, in addition to funding increases, for education.

When it comes to education, the $30 billion North Carolina budget includes more than just school employee raises.

The budget proposal includes more than $100 million more each year for private school vouchers, and it extends the deadline to comply with provisions of the new Parents’ Bill of Rights to January, while schools work out the questions they have.

It provides an average raise of 7% over two years for teachers, though the most experienced teachers would receive raises of just 3.6%.

The budget, largely crafted by leaders of the Republican-controlled legislative chambers, has faced opposition from Democrats who say it doesn’t provide enough in employee pay raises and provides too much for school vouchers. Republicans argue many parents want more access to private schools. 

Parents for Educational Freedom in NC, a group that supports private school options for families, released a statement Wednesday favoring the budget and its expansion of “school choice.”

“This is a sound budget for education in North Carolina, and another step in the right direction of expanding education funding that prioritizes students over systems,” the group’s president, Mike Long, said in the statement.

Proposed state budget would give more families money for private school vouchers

By Shamarria Morrison

September 21, 2023

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A new budget proposed by Republican leaders in the General Assembly includes billions of dollars impacting North Carolina schools.  

Some highlights of the budget include teacher pay raises, a private school voucher expansion, and delays in controversial laws. 

The proposed state budget shows an average 7% increase in teacher pay for the next two years. For a beginning teacher that's an extra $2,000. It raises a new teacher's pay from $37,000 to $39,000. 

NC State Budget Draft expands voucher program for private schools

 By Maggie Newland

September 20, 2023

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Under the new budget draft, all North Carolina students could be eligible for vouchers to attend private school, regardless of income level.

The move would give students money to put toward a private school education, but could mean less money for public schools.

Rosie Mayberry, from Asheboro, used the state’s voucher program to send her children to private school. She described it as a “great experience,” but said, at the time, only two of her three children qualified for vouchers. She said her oldest daughter did not meet the requirement, at the time, to have previously attended public school.  “We had to withdraw from the program because of the financial burden from our oldest daughter because we were having to pay completely out of pocket for her,” she noted.

NC private school enrollment is soaring, and it could rise even more. Here’s why.

By T. Keung Hui

August 2, 2023

A historic expansion of North Carolina’s school voucher program could come at the same time that enrollment in private schools is rising at near-record levels.

New statewide figures released this week show that enrollment in private schools grew by 11,457 students during the 2022-23 school year. Private schools haven’t added this many students since the 1971-72 school year, when they gained 11,764 kids during the fight over public school integration.

There are now 126,768 students attending private schools, a 10% increase from the prior year. The number could rise even more as Republican lawmakers want to allow any family to be eligible to apply for a private school voucher.

“It just shows you that parents want choice plain and simple,” Mike Long, president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, said in an interview Wednesday. “More and more parents want choice. They want what’s best for their kids.”

NC plan to expand private school vouchers rekindles debate over separation of church and state

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled a handful of times on whether limits must be placed on public money that goes to private schools.

By Emily Walkenhorst

June 23, 2023

An age-old debate over whether public money should fund religious education is being rekindled as Republican lawmakers consider a massive expansion of North Carolina’s private school voucher program.

The arguments against such efforts center on long-held beliefs over the separation of church and state. Critics say public funds shouldn’t go toward private institutions that don’t follow the same standards as public schools and spend time teaching religious values — including beliefs that could influence science education or support exclusionary admissions policies.

“If parents want their private religious schools to stay free from government interference and not be sullied by the government in any way, then they should actually want there to be no connection between these private religious schools and government funds,” said Rachel Laser, chief executive of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “Because with government funds, strings are attached, and they should be, that's what we want, right? And at the same time, we don't want that in our religious institutions, because that's dangerous.”

N.C. Association of Educators drops lawsuit against popular school choice program

By A.P. Dillon

April 26, 2023

RALEIGH — The N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE) dropped its lawsuit against North Carolina’s popular Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), according to a filing with the Wake County Superior Court last week. 

“Plaintiffs hereby notice the dismissal of all claims against all Defendants,” wrote Christopher Brook, the attorney representing NCAE. “Plaintiffs have consulted with all parties regarding costs, and all parties agree that each side will bear their own costs. Defendants reserve the right to pursue costs should Plaintiffs re-file this lawsuit within one year of this filing.” 

Brook had been appointed to the N.C. Court of Appeals by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper in 2019. Brook, a Democrat, ran in 2020 to retain the seat but was defeated by Judge Jefferson Griffin, a Republican.

Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC) has been a consistent supporter of the OSP and has helped families navigate the program for years. PEFNC’s President Mike Long was pleased the NCAE dropped the suit. 

NC spends $133M on private school vouchers. Lawmakers are proposing much more.

By Liz Schlemmer

April 24, 2023

Now that Republicans have a supermajority in both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly, they have a lot of power to turn their priorities into reality. One of the GOP priorities this session has been school choice, including private school vouchers.

WUNC’s Will Michaels sat down with education reporter Liz Schlemmer to ask her about the state's main voucher program and where it's headed.