How does the Opportunity Scholarship Program have both a surplus and a waitlist?

There are unspent funds, or a surplus, allocated for Opportunity Scholarships. How is this possible if there's also a waitlist?

Short Answer: 

Alongside the 40% cap on K-1 students, parents face other obstacles.

Recently, legislators are claiming that “Every family who wants a scholarship can get one.” However, there is a statutory 40% cap for K-1 (kindergarten and 1st grade) students, meaning that K-1 scholarships cannot exceed 40% of scholarship funds.

There were 520 students on the wait list for the 2018-19 school year and all of them were K-1 students. While there were still scholarship funds available, scholarships could not be offered to those students because the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA) determined that the 40% cap had been met.

What often happens with families who have applied for a scholarship for more than one child, when older children are offered a scholarship, but their kindergarten or 1st grade child is on the wait list, they decline the other scholarships so that the children will not be split up. When a kindergarten or 1st grade student does not receive a scholarship, but their older siblings are already in a private school with a scholarship, the family may choose to remove the older child from the school and surrender their scholarship. These scenarios are clearly problematic for families, but they also impact the full use of scholarship funds.

Finally, since its inception the Opportunity Scholarship Program and those who benefit from the program have been under constant attack – injunctions, lawsuits, uncertain funding - parents don't want to risk enrolling their children just to be forced to leave.