Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Hosted by PEFNC

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Joins Parents, Elected Officials at PEFNC Event in Raleigh

Event underscores the growth and importance of parental school choice in the Tar Heel State

Raleigh, NC (October 5, 2020) – U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos joined a panel of North Carolina families at an event in Raleigh today. Also joining the Education Secretary were NC Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and state Senators Deanna Ballard and Joyce Krawiec.

The event—sponsored by Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC), an advocacy organization promoting equal access to educational opportunities across the state—was organized to underscore the importance of expanded educational options during the COVID-19 pandemic and to hear, first-hand, from families impacted this school year.

“I’m going to make this absolutely clear: North Carolinians want school choice. And you know what—they deserve it,” said PEFNC president Mike Long, highlighting recent polling on broad support for school choice in the Tar Heel State, including a Civitas Institute poll showing that 69 percent of likely voters support the Opportunity Scholarship Program. [READ MIKE LONG'S ENTIRE REMARKS HERE]

"I have a passion for ensuring that all families, regardless of where they come from, what their family's income is, what their socioeconomic background is or their race. All families should have an opportunity for equal access to a quality education for their child,” said Secretary DeVos.

DeVos added, “We have made tremendous progress, but there is so much more to be made. We are seeing it now, as families across the country have been more aware in the last six to eight months of their own children's education. What they are and are not learning. What the schools are or are not doing to meet their children's needs. All of the data, most recently, shows us that the demand for giving parents control over their children's education and educational future continues to rise and continues to be more top of mind. I am thrilled to be here with you today to hear your stories and what is happening in North Carolina.”

Parental school choice has grown remarkably over the past decade, as families flock to alternatives to the traditional public school system. Today, more than 20 percent of North Carolina students are enrolled in these institutions of choice. The Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides up to $4,200 per year for tuition support to allow students to attend private schools, has enabled low-income, working-class, tax-paying families to attend the school of their choice. And our state’s pair of scholarships designed for students with special needs—the Children with Disabilities Grant and the Education Savings Account—have extended a vital lifeline to families with exceptional students. Lawmakers in the General Assembly recognize these trends and, in recent weeks, passed a COVID-19 relief bill that strengthens and expands all three of these scholarship programs throughout the state.

A trio of moms shared their personal stories with Secretary DeVos and the panel of state leaders. “I’m just so honored to be here today and share my story. I feel like I finally have a choice and a voice,” said Jessica Edwards of Fayetteville. Jessica decided to homeschool her daughter this year while she waits for an available seat at a private school in Fayetteville. Jessica’s son is in traditional public school and “it is meeting his needs.” 

Melanie Osborne joined the discussion, a single-mom of five (including quadruplets) who benefits from the Opportunity Scholarship Program. “We are so grateful for this program. It has been life changing for us. Even with the scholarships, I allocate 25 percent of my income to go towards private school tuition, and I am willing to make that investment in my children.”

Chloe Dixon has three children, one of whom is now enrolled in a private school in Fayetteville. “As a single mom, balancing work and online education has been very tough for us. While my daughter is now in a small private school, two of my children are full-time virtual learners and it’s been a struggle.” Chloe admitted that enrolling all three children in private school would not work financially, and she advocated to leaders in the room for more educational choice options for families like hers.