by Dr. Robert Luebke
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
Prospects for expanded educational choice in North Carolina when the North Carolina House of Representatives passed the Equity in Opportunity Act (HB 32) on straight party line vote, 69-49.
The legislation makes changes to the state’s three school choice programs. The bill would increase the voucher for the Opportunity Scholarship Program, the largest school choice program in North Carolina from $4,200 to 80 percent of the state per pupil funding for traditional public schools. Under current spending levels, the award would increase to $5,269. Voucher awards have not changed since the Opportunity Scholarship Program began in 2014.
HB 32 also folds the two existing special needs programs, the Disabilities Grant, and Special Needs Education Savings Account (ESA) into one ESA. Among other things, the legislation would provide recipients of the Special Needs Disabilities Grant an ESA of up to $17,000 and guarantees funding increases of approximately $1 million per year up to $26 million through 2031-32.
The bill now goes to the Senate where a similar school choice bill, SB 671 has been introduced by Senators Mike Lee (R-Wilmington), Deanna Ballard (R-Allegheny) and Amy Galey (R-Alamance).
Parental demand for more educational options has never been greater. HB 32 could go a long way to ensure parents can access the educational option that best fits their child’s needs.