What is next for North Carolina?
There is no stopping the parental school choice momentum. What is next for North Carolina?
By Mike Long
I was taking some time to reflect on the growth of parental school choice in our state and across the Nation. It was not that long ago that we were somewhat limited on parental school choice options. That is why Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina was established in 2005, to help change that, and in the last 18 years, we have.
Recently, our state has taken great strides to empower parents and to ensure that students get access to the education and school choice options that best fit their needs.
North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) helps eligible families access a private school of their choice. Education Student Accounts (ESA+) helps students with special needs and provides families with the financial resources necessary to choose the school that best fits their needs.
For the 22-23 school year, the OSP had 21,348 new applications submitted. The more specific ESA+ program had 4,226 new applications. Both programs are currently accepting applications for the 23-24 school year. If you are interested, you may see if you are eligible for the OSP and/or ESA+.
Combine that with a record number of public charter school options, increased interest in homeschooling, and the nearly 1.4 million students who attend our state’s traditional public schools, and it is an easy case to be made for a supportive parental school choice environment in North Carolina.
The popularity of parental school choice has likely never been stronger. In a recent poll from the John Locke Foundation, 67.3% of North Carolinians said they support the OSP (an increase of 6.7% from 2022). In addition, 68.8% support the ESA+ and 68.6% support charter schools (a significant increase of 10.2%).
These programs, and school choice in general, are proven to be favorable and popular among thousands of parents. However, there is also a lot going on in the rest of the country.
I was pleased to visit Arizona late last year and I was thrilled to stand behind Governor Doug Ducey as he signed their universal ESA program for all students into law. Iowa made a huge splash a few weeks ago during National School Choice Week when its Governor signed a bill establishing its own ESA program. Indiana, Tennessee, New Hampshire, Missouri, West Virginia, and a handful of other states all use some form of ESA system.
With demand rising from parents who want to ensure their children are getting the best education, supply must rise as well. North Carolina is already a national leader in this movement and I am grateful for a state legislature that recognizes the importance of expanding school choice even more.
Let’s make it available for all!