by Donna Martinez
Former Senior Writer and Editor, John Locke Foundation
I received this news release from Sen. Leader Phil Berger’s office late Tuesday afternoon.
Raleigh, N.C. — Today, nearly every Senate Democrat voted against giving lower-income families scholarships to attend the school that best fit their child’s educational needs, despite talk of “equity” and the fact some prominent opponents of Opportunity Scholarships sent their own children to private schools.
Senate Bill 671 empowers low- and middle-income parents to have a choice in where their child attends school. Under this bill, a single mother making less than $56,400 would be eligible to receive an Opportunity Scholarship for her child.
The measure is sponsored by Sens. Michael Lee (R-New Hanover) and Deanna Ballard (R-Watauga), who co-chair the Senate Education Committee, and Sen. Amy Galey (R-Alamance). It increases the income threshold to qualify for Opportunity Scholarships to 175% of the federal reduced-price lunch level. The bill also increases the scholarship award amount from the current maximum of $4,200 annually to about $5,900 annually.
“Every child deserves the chance to go to a school that meets their needs, no matter their zip code, no matter their family’s financial means. Every parent deserves to have a say in their child’s education, and these scholarships give parents a voice,” Sen. Lee said.
“School choice shouldn’t be a privilege reserved only for the wealthy. All children, regardless of their financial circumstances, deserve the opportunity to attend the school that’s best for them,” Sen. Galey said.“The same activists who supported school closures and claim to care about ‘equity’ turn their backs on families searching for the school setting where their child would thrive. They oppose giving lower-income families the same access to educational choice that others enjoy.”
The application window for Opportunity Scholarships is currently open. Families interested in applying for the grant can do so at www.ncseaa.edu/k12/opportunity/.
A recent statewide survey found that 71% of registered voters support the Opportunity Scholarship program, and 61% support increasing the scholarship amount.
Despite its popularity, Gov. Roy Cooper has continually tried to defund the program that provides scholarships to low- and middle-income families.
The bill also merges the Special Education Scholarships for Students with Disabilities and Personal Education Savings Accounts into the Personal Education Student Accounts for Children with Disabilities.
The bill now goes to the N.C. House of Representatives for consideration.