PEFNC Praises Legislations That Would Expand Eligibility for School Choice Programs

Raleigh, NC (April 5, 2019) – Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC) applauds a bipartisan trio of North Carolina senators—Deanna Ballard (R-Watauga), Ben Clark (D-Cumberland), and Todd Johnson (R-Union)—for introducing legislation that would expand access to the state’s three parental school choice K-12 programs.

Under Senate Bill 609, more low-income and working-class families, and those with students special needs, would have access to the Opportunity Scholarship Program, Children with Disabilities Grant, and Education Savings Account.

“We’ve heard from families across North Carolina who could benefit from these proposed changes,” said PEFNC President Mike Long. “The time is right to take these important steps forward to strengthen our choice programs, which are providing thousands of families in our state with access to the schools that they feel are the best fit for their children.”

The legislation improves access to these parental choice programs in three ways, none of which impose an additional cost on the state:

  • Expanded income eligibility guidelines for Opportunity Scholarships: Currently, a household of four may earn no more than around $63,000 per year to qualify for the scholarship. Under the proposed bill, that upper threshold would increase to around $71,000.
  • Expanded access to the programs for more families: Current law puts a 40-percent cap on how many students in kindergarten and first grade may be eligible for Opportunity Scholarships. The bill would eliminate that cap. Additionally, the bill would expand eligibility for Opportunity Scholarships, the Children with Disabilities Grant, and Education Savings Accounts to gifted four-year-olds entering kindergarten early. (Right now, the law limits access to five-year-olds.)
  • Streamlined access to the Children with Disabilities Grant: The bill also streamlines eligibility requirements for the Grant to match those of Education Savings Accounts. This would increase the chances of students currently enrolled in private school in securing a scholarship.

Demand for all three educational choice programs remains strong. Applications for Opportunity Scholarships have more than doubled since the program was created in 2013, with over 8,000 new families having submitted applications for the upcoming 2019-2020 school year. Currently a combined 11,426 students in North Carolina benefit from at least one of the three scholarship programs.

“These programs are breaking down barriers to success for those who need help the most. Let’s not walk back that progress,” Long added. “Any conversation about scaling back these important programs is short-sighted and prioritizes systems over families and children."