Opportunity Scholarships save taxpayers’ dollars
Contrary to rhetoric from Gov. Roy Cooper, Opportunity Scholarships in North Carolina actuallysave taxpayer dollars and direct no funds away from public education.
Surprised? You might be if you listen to all the clamor from supporters of the educational status quo in North Carolina. Gov. Cooper himself recently said that Opportunity Scholarships are “an expense we should stop.” According to reports from The Insider State Government News Service, Gov. Cooper’s office is prioritizing defunding Opportunity Scholarships to the point of using it as a bargaining chip in budget negotiations with the House and Senate.
Since 2013, Opportunity Scholarships have provided up to $4,200 per student (each school year) toward a private school education for some of the neediest students in the Tar Heel State. The median household income for families enrolled in the program is around $31,000. These are not rich families—and an Opportunity Scholarship is often their best hope to give their children the right educational fit.
Gov. Cooper has made it a priority to phase out funding for Opportunity Scholarships, arguing that the funds would be better used elsewhere.
But here’s the truth: 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.
The savings are due to the difference between the average value of a scholarship ($3,800) and the average public school expenditure per student ($6,154 accounting for students with an LEP and EC). This is strictly state money, too—to say nothing of the local tax burden taken off public schools.
All the evidence points to the plain fact that Opportunity Scholarships are a net budget plus for the state. More importantly, they are a vital lifeline to families whose children would be stuck in schools that don’t work for them.
The big question for Gov. Cooper is this—why cost the state more money by phasing out the Opportunity Scholarship Program? And why eliminate this program that is the best hope for so many working-class families?
Mike Long is a 35-year educator with experience as a middle school teacher, an AP US History teacher, a high school principal and a Head of School. Long is the President of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, a non-profit organization that advocates for quality educational options through parental school choice.