In the News

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

‘Out of hand.’ Add rules if NC private schools get $463M in new voucher money, CMS says Read more at:

By Rebecca Noel

May 14, 2024

Private schools need more accountability if the North Carolina legislature hands out hundreds of millions in new tax money for student vouchers this year, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. The N.C. General Assembly is working through final changes now on a $463 million bill to clear wait lists for opportunity scholarships — the state’s private school vouchers — one year after spending $505 million to vastly expand the program. It used to have an income cap, but anyone in the state is eligible now, regardless of income or whether they’ve already got a child in private school. The expansion strays from the initial intent of opportunity scholarships, which was to offer the ability to attend private schools to those who couldn’t afford tuition, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials say.

As legislators debate massive expansion, a candid conversation about NC's school voucher program

By Jeff Tiberii, Rachel McCarthy

May 13, 2024

North Carolina’s private school voucher program began over a decade ago to offer low-income families an alternative to low-performing public schools. The Opportunity Scholarship program has expanded in recent years — now there is no income requirement to qualify and tens of thousands of moderate to higher-income applicants are waiting to hear if they'll get scholarships as well.

North Carolina Republicans seek hundreds of millions of dollars more for school vouchers

By Gary D. Robertson

May 1, 2024

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Addressing a sharp increase in private-school grant applications, North Carolina Republicans advanced legislation on Wednesday to spend hundreds of millions of dollars now to eliminate a large waiting list this fall for Opportunity Scholarships and to permanently meet expected higher demand.

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted for legislation that would spend another $248 million in the coming year to eliminate a waiting list of 54,900 applicants who otherwise would receive money to attend private or religious K-12 schools.

Republicans from both chambers said before the legislative session began last week that finding a way to eliminate the wait list was a top priority. They said that parents counted on the program to help their children succeed if an alternative to public schools was best for them.

“The urgency of all this is really because these families have to make decisions,” said Sen. Michael Lee, a New Hanover County Republican and longtime school choice advocate, told committee members.

NC’s Opportunity Scholarship Gives Parents Educational Options (With Mike Long)

Interview by NC Family Staff

April 27, 2024

North Carolina is one of the leading states in the nation in the area of school choice. In addition to the wide variety of educational options available to K-12 students across the state, the North Carolina General Assembly has taken its commitment a step further by expanding the Opportunity Scholarship Program, which helps enable parents to send their child to the school that best fits their needs regardless of financial barriers.

This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs welcomes back Mike Long, President of Parents for Educational Freedom North Carolina, to discuss North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship and the impact that it has.

NC offers private-school vouchers to 13,500 new students but says about 40,000 are out

By Ann Doss Helms

April 1, 2024

North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship program delivered good news to some families and bad news to many others this weekend.

After lifting the income cap and increasing the size of the scholarships, the state saw a surge of demand. Roughly 72,000 students applied for the scholarships for 2024-25. The scholarships provide state money to defray the cost of private-school tuition.

The State Education Assistance Authority notified 13,511 students whose families earn the least that they’re eligible if they attend a participating school next year. Their families have until April 19 to accept or decline.

The authority also announced this weekend that even with almost $192 million allotted, that won’t be enough to offer scholarships to about 40,000 students whose families are in the top income brackets.

That sets up an election-year battle over the voucher program. Republican leaders have promoted the expanded program as a chance to increase options and let all taxpayers take their child’s share of education money — sometimes dubbed “backpack funding” — to whatever school they choose.

The budget approved in 2023 includes annual increases, reaching more than $500 million by 2031. The GOP holds a veto-proof majority and could use the 2024 short session, which convenes later this month, to add money for the coming year.

The bright future of school choice in North Carolina

By Andrew Campanella

March 21, 2024

For years, parents across North Carolina have demanded greater access to schools and learning environments that would better meet their children’s interests, talents and needs. Now, these demands have transformed into new opportunities.

Late last year, the North Carolina legislature heeded parents’ calls, expanding the state’s Opportunity Scholarship program so that all families could apply for scholarships to make private schooling more affordable. On Feb. 1, 2024, the state opened applications to the program for the first time since its expansion. Just minutes after going live, the application website crashed due to the overwhelming rush of newly eligible parents who were eager to apply.

The website was quickly repaired, and enthusiasm for school choice in the Tarheel State has only grown since. Since its inception in 2013, the Opportunity Scholarship program has grown from serving just over 1,200 students in 2014 to serving more than 32,000 students a decade later.

NC lawmakers could boost Opportunity Scholarship funding in short session

By David N. Bass

March 20, 2024

Leaders in the General Assembly say they are in discussions over whether to boost funding for the Opportunity Scholarship Program due to surging demand.

Around 72,000 new applications were received for the upcoming school year for Opportunity Scholarships, a program that provides between $3,360 and $7,468 a year to allow families to choose a private school education for their kids. Beginning this year, scholarships are prioritized based on four income tiers, with the lowest earning households receiving first priority.

Lawmakers are set to convene for the short session of the General Assembly in late April. The short session’s primary goal is to make budget adjustments for the two-year biennium, in addition to dealing with non-fiscal bills that made the crossover deadline from the 2023 long session.

High demand means tens of thousands may be shut out of NC school vouchers

By Ann Doss Helms

March 11, 2024

Critics of North Carolina’s school voucher programs like to say that even millionaires can now get public money to help pay their children’s private-school tuition. And technically that’s true, since the General Assembly voted this summer to remove income caps for Opportunity Scholarships.

But the state has seen a surge of applications for 2024-25, when the new rules kick in. State officials and advocates say that could mean that about 40,000 applicants will be told they can’t get the scholarships because they make too much money.

“Quite frankly the chances of getting into Tier 3 look to me to be pretty slim at this point,” said Brian Jodice of the school choice advocacy group Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina. He’s referring to an income level that starts at about $115,000 for a family of four.

The new plan says everyone is eligible for scholarships, which range from $3,360 to $7,468 depending on income. But if there’s not enough money to go around — which hasn’t been an issue in previous years — first priority goes to current scholarship recipients and new applicants from lower-income families.

Elusive voucher school has a new address in Harrisburg — and students are there

By Ann Doss Helms

March 7, 2023

A Charlotte private school that gets North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship money but didn't seem to have a location lists a new address in Cabarrus County. After checking seven previous addresses for Teaching Achieving Students Academy with no sign of a school, I found a small group of students working at the school’s newest address in Harrisburg.

“We’ve been everywhere that we said we’d be,” the school’s headmistress, who goes by Fanisha Cowan and Fanisha Locke, said Wednesday. She declined to discuss the matter in any detail, saying her students were learning and it wasn’t appropriate to interrupt.

Breaking Records & Helping with School Searches

The Opportunity Scholarship Program shows overwhelming demand!

We witnessed an incredible demand for the newly expanded Opportunity Scholarship program this year!

  • In February 2023, a total of 11,617 applications were completed and sent to SEAA.
  • For the application cycle of 2024, 31,603 applications were completed within the first five days of the month alone! 
  • In total, nearly 72,000 families applied in February 2024.