North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program
The North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) was born out of an ideology that families in our state should have access to the school that best fits their child’s needs, regardless of their zip code or income. Established by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2013, OSP has now served thousands of families and students from across North Carolina since 2014 through a private school scholarship worth up to $4,200 a year, providing tuition assistance to ensure low-income and working-class families who are eligible for the program can obtain equal access to the school of their choice. The program, according to moms like Charlonda Brown from Goldsboro, has been “life changing” for her family.
OSP has grown from serving just over 1,200 students in 2014 to 12,284 students for the 2019-2020 school year, with 15,000 scholarships available to students to enroll in the private school of their parents’ choice this school year (2020-21). In addition, an estimated 500-1,000 students remain on a waitlist for this school year. Thanks to the North Carolina General Assembly, and coupled with consistent growing demand for the program, OSP will grow to 36,000 students by the 2028-29 school year.
Other facts and figures:
- When OSP was established in 2013, there were 698 private schools in North Carolina. Today there are 750.
- In 2013, 67% of private schools in North Carolina identified as “religious” compared to 65% today. On the other hand, the number of schools that identify as independent have grown by 7% since 2013.
- For the coming school year (2020-21), applicants for OSP come from 99 of North Carolina’s 100 counties, and last school year scholarship recipients resided in 99 counties in our state.
- 28% of students currently (2019-20 school year) on OSP are African American, compared to 24% in traditional public school.
- In the last three years, Hispanic families benefiting from an Opportunity Scholarship have increased by 4% (up from 9% to 13%).
School choice in North Carolina has never been more popular. Beyond the incredible demand for OSP, all school choice models have seen an increase in enrollment in our state in recent years. The number of students attending public charter, private, or home schools has climbed to over 375,000. For the first time in the history of our state, these students now represent over 20% of school-aged children.
Public opinion for school choice polls and surveys incredibly strong. According to a Civitas Institute Poll (January 2020):
- 81% of respondents agree that parents should have the ability to choose where their child attends school, and when asked who is best suited to determine where a child should attend school, 76% said parents.
- Specific to Opportunity Scholarship, 67% said they support the scholarship program. The highest subset to support OSP was minority respondents at 78%.
In a survey of OSP parents (December 2018) conducted by Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, parents and families’ satisfaction for the program was extremely high:
- 97% of families were happy with their child’s academic progress in the private school of their choice.
- 99% said their child feels safe as well as welcome.
- 97% were satisfied or very satisfied with their private school of choice.
WATCH: Real parents, families, students, and teachers who have a stake in OSP
- Meet Charlonda Brown, a mother of two, who has two sons on the Opportunity Scholarship Program. For her family, “it’s been life changing.”
- KC Cooper’s son Keenan is off the college. Keenan has special needs and because of his Opportunity Scholarship, “he’s proud of himself.”
- The School of Hope in Fayetteville serves children with autism. This school, born out of a special legacy, would not exist without the Opportunity Scholarship Program.
- Shannon is a teacher at a private school in Charlotte, and she has seen first-hand the second chance the Opportunity Scholarship Program gave to one of her students.
- Janet’s granddaughter was falling behind until the Opportunity Scholarship Program empowered her family. As she watches her granddaughter thrive in her school of choice, she recognizes that “none of this is possible without the Opportunity Scholarship.”