NC School Choice Bill: Choose Your School, Choose Your Future, S406=823
A glimpse at per pupil expenditures from 2015-2022 www.ncdpi.gov
While the bill’s short title seems corny, readers grasp the gist. There is no perfect bill, however, it is hard to argue against putting options and more freedom to choose in the hands of North Carolina families. Read the full bill here.
Not only would the bill expand educational freedoms making all NC residents eligible, it removes the requirement to attend public school the prior year, as well as carves out a path for early high school graduation requirements and the creation of a scholarship fund for early graduation students.
What’s striking for those who are fiscally aware, is the amount of spending in the bill. I want education dollars following kids, benefitting the taxpayers who made contributions, but at the same time I want to see another pile of money shrinking. The new legislation adds more spending, because the intent is to expand eligibility to more children (doubling the amount according to Sen. Lee). Educating more children would cost more dollars.
Note in the two following sections, the span of time is the same, yet the figures are drastically different.
The current NC Opportunity Scholarship Program
This section appears in H823 /S406
As one can see, there’s a lot of money involved, including current administrative fees up $7,788,500. I guess it costs a lot to spend a lot? I would not be so concerned about this pile growing had it not been for a recent phenomenon in public school spending.
In the past, schools have been held harmless for losing students during the ongoing (pandemic) failures. Imagine leaving a school, but you continue footing the bill although you no longer use that school. Those consumers are stuck footing the local tax bill which goes to schools they have ultimately rejected. In essence, public school systems continue to benefit without ever having to serve this segment of the school aged population. Recently during the covid-19 pandemic years, NNC has set a precedent to reward public schools long after they have lost students, thereby holding them unaccountable for downward shifts in attendance for an ever higher monetary value- state ADMs. Both incidents are examples of waste.
For now, schools are held accountable for decreases in ADMs and hopefully, we do not return to this initiative to help schools with the inability to budget accordingly.
For now, it looks like NC public schools are being held accountable for lost customers. Hallelujah.
The new legislation calls for spending of $509,540,000 over the same span of 15 years, leaving a max of $12,738,500 for administrative costs. So, on the one hand, I don’t want kids trapped in failing schools. North Carolina has many of those. Yes, the OSP helps alleviate this problem, but it still places the government at the top of the pyramid and in control of k-12 education.
Nonetheless, it is always humorous when the opposition says, “we’re paying to send rich people’s kids to private, religious schools.”
Roy Cooper’s (d) daughter Natalie graduated from a private, religious boarding school, called Saint Mary’s.
The wealthy don’t need these kinds of programs. The programs are created for families who aren’t wealthy and who cannot afford a way out of a failing traditional public school.
When people talk about separating the church and state, I think we can argue that the state is not promoting one religion over another. The state program awards funds to religious schools, as well as non-religious, but this doesn’t mean they’re all Christian schools as we see opponents often claiming. Any private school may opt in.
For instance, Greensboro Islamic Academy opted into the program when it became first available and has grown ever since. Reflected in the image, the cost to taxpayers is $4,168.65 per pupil. That is a huge program benefit because the state spends more than this figure on public school students.
Greensboro Islamic Academy data for 2022-23:
Various funding streams for traditional NC public school students
So, while the bill would help a lot of North Carolinians escape failing schools by having the ability to take dollars to private schools of their choosing, we must be cautious, keep an eye on spending and when families want these programs we might consider supporting school choice expansions.
I’m not sure if it’s worth the time fighting against bills which benefit the entire non-public school sector because if they dislike it, then they do not have to opt in. I would presume bills like this have been benefitting other populations, such as undocumented residents, but I have yet to have read through Plyler v. Doe, which I will save for another day.