There’s no question there is momentum in North Carolina for expanding options to the traditional public school system. Public charter schools have gotten the most attention and action over the past several years, but other viable options exist. Terry Stoops, JLF’s Director of Research and Education Studies, has produced a good primer on one of those: school vouchers. As Stoops explains, their are pros, cons, and tradeoffs. 

Two of the positive studies highlighted benefits tied to the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Charlotte, a privately funded voucher program started in 1999. “Evaluations in 2000 and 2007 found significant reading and math score gains for low-income, predominantly African-American scholarship recipients,” Stoops said. “In addition, qualitative studies conclude that parental satisfaction is high and most scholarship recipients graduated from high school.”

As he spells out positive results linked to vouchers, Stoops also details potential problems. “The major drawback of using a direct government voucher is that it tends to invite excessive government regulation of participating families and schools,” he said. “Those regulations can take the form of public school enrollment requirements, testing mandates, enrollment caps, and limits on eligibility and scholarship values. This means that a voucher program requires additional safeguards and protections.”

The goal is to empower parents with options that best fit their child’s needs and interests. There are many ways to do that, and vouchers is just one policy to consider.