Families across North Carolina want more school choice. Polling consistently shows high support for school choice programs.

Even more telling is the overwhelming response from families applying to the newly expanded Opportunity Scholarship program. The latest reports show that 72,000 families have applied for this program this year alone, a surge of more than 500 percent over last year.

The demand for scholarships has far exceeded the amount of funding the legislature provided for the program in last year’s budget, which has led to speculation that legislators will consider expanding funding for the program this session in order to meet the demand.

They should.

Rough estimates say that about another $300 million would be sufficient to fund all the applicants. Not an insignificant amount, but the state is well-equipped to handle it.

The state has a healthy amount of funds available to finance this very worthy cause.

Thanks to several years of conservative fiscal management, the state has a healthy amount of funds available to finance this very worthy cause.

According to the State Controller, the state’s Savings Reserve fund holds $4.75 billion. The “Stabilization and Inflation Reserve” fund holds another billion dollars. The state is also sitting on a $2.72 billion “unreserved cash balance,” meaning unspent funds with no designated purpose. That’s nearly $8.5 billion – $300 million would only be about 3.5 percent of these funds.

Additionally, next year’s budget (the second year of the biennial budget) is slated to spend $30.9 billion – a figure that will likely be adjusted this summer. Finding $300 million to fully fund children desperately seeking educational alternatives would amount to less than one percent of the General Fund budget.

If you don’t find that acceptable, state budget writers could consider diverting the second $250 million payment due to the unproven NCInnovation this coming budget year.

The larger scale of the program moving forward is in no small part accounted for with higher appropriations designated for future years, along with lesser financial needs for traditional public schools because tens of thousands of students will be leaving for alternatives.

The bottom line is this: the state has plenty of options by which to fund the massive demand for Opportunity Scholarships without threatening the state’s fiscal stability in the least. Parents and students have made their desires clear. Legislators should make this happen.