As members of the NC Education Partners, we are dedicated to ensuring that each NC student has access to quality public education that meets their needs, so they are able to graduate from high school on-time and pursue either a postsecondary degree or high-quality, industry-aligned credential. Adequately investing in our public schools to move from 48th in the nation in per-pupil spending to the top 25th percentile, will allow NC businesses to harness the power of a strong NC public education system that produces 21st century employees ready for the ample job opportunities in our state. Without this investment in public education, companies will continue to hire from out of state while only 31 out of 100 NC high school graduates will earn a college degree or industry-valued credential within 6 years after graduation.
A strong public education system is an essential building block and a crucial investment for a strong economy, strong communities, and a strong democracy. Public schools serve all children and benefit all members of society. We believe all taxpayer education dollars should be adequate and equitable so all NC students can meet their hopes and dreams. We believe that all taxpayer dollars spent on education should have public accountability standards and reporting. We believe that all taxpayer dollars spent on education should support the whole child and offer access and services to meet the needs of all students, including Exceptional Children (students with disabilities).
Therefore, we oppose NC Senate Bill 406, House Bill 823 and House Bill 420, all of which would significantly increase state funding provided in the form of vouchers for students to enroll in private and parochial schools (schools affiliated with a church). House Bill 420 goes even further and also includes public funding to homeschools. Instead of putting those public taxpayer dollars toward investing in strong, public schools that are publicly accountable and must serve all students, these bills would divert public funds away from public schools and toward private school options that are not readily accessible to all families for reasons such as income or student needs (speech therapy, EC services, literacy interventions, etc) and that can refuse to admit students for reasons such as religion, sexual orientation and more.
With the vast majority of students in our state attending public schools, our first priority for public funds should be to ensure that our public schools have adequate funding to meet the needs of their diverse student populations.
These bills would represent a significant expansion of our state’s current school voucher program. In addition to expanding funding for vouchers, these bills would expand eligibility, making vouchers available regardless of a family’s financial need or the educational needs of the student.
Under the Senate Bill, the voucher amount is provided on a sliding scale based on family income, with the highest possible award being $7,213 going to a family of four with an annual income of $55,500 and all families, regardless of income, being eligible to receive at least $3,246 (by Fiscal Year 2023-24). While these amounts are not sufficient to pay tuition at many private schools, our public schools that still serve the vast majority of students will have fewer and fewer resources to offer those students.
Public schools receive funding based on the number of students enrolled. Our large public school systems have efficiencies of scale and are able to offer the broad range of academic and extracurricular activities that our students need and deserve, from AP classes to dual-language immersion to early colleges to dance to football. The ability of our public schools to educate all students and offer a wide array of academic, sports and arts programs will increasingly diminish as public dollars are diverted away from public schools and toward non-public education settings.
We, the undersigned organizations who are part of the NC Education Partners network, oppose these bills because they will:
- Use public taxpayer dollars to fund schools that are not required to serve all students and that can promote religious teachings. The private schools receiving these public dollars are not required to offer services to make the schools accessible to all students, such as free transportation, free/ reduced price meals or special education services. Private schools can also limit their admissions based on race, religion or student abilities. Public dollars should not be provided to any institution that prohibits a student from enrolling based on any of the above factors. Public schools are, by law, required to offer enrollment and services to ALL students regardless of race, gender, ability, and religion. Additionally, religious schools receiving taxpayer money can carry out practices that directly contradict the constitutionally required separation of church and state. There are already examples of this happening; for example, a private religious school in Fayetteville that received $1,162,821 in taxpayer dollars in just one year upset parents after baptizing 100 students during a school event without the parents’ permission. Religious schools are already the largest recipients of public dollars in the form of school vouchers, and under these bills this funding would continue to grow.
- Use public taxpayer dollars for a program that lacks accountability for school outcomes and lacks oversight for use of funds. Schools receiving these public dollars are not accountable to a publicly elected Board and they are not required to publicly report test scores to show academic performance. Instances in other states with similar legislation as these bills proposed in NC show the risks of misuse of these dollars. In Arizona in 2018, parents misused $700,000 in voucher funds intended for educational purposes on items such as clothing and cosmetics. There would be a significant difference in accountability for these non-public schools receiving public funds than the accountability over public schools. Creating the systems and personnel needed for adequate oversight of this new voucher program available to all families would cost our state even more in funds that could otherwise be supporting strong public schools.
- Divert public funding away from public schools. At a time when North Carolina is ranked last in the country in public school funding effort, these bills divert even more funding away from providing the constitutionally mandated sound basic education to all students. Public dollars should be for public institutions. The greatest impact of this legislation would be felt in our rural counties (80 of North Carolina’s 100 counties are rural) that do not have the local tax base that urban districts have to try to supplement lost state funding. Diverting these funds away from public education will harm our most vulnerable student populations.
If we are serious about serving all students, accountability for taxpayer dollars and preparing students growing up in NC today to be 21st century employees to our current and future NC businesses, we must fully fund our public schools.
North Carolina families have school choice today. Families can go to publicly-funded district schools or charter schools or they can go to private school, religious schools or homeschool. But our taxpayer public dollars are intended to fund public schools that have public accountability. Our state’s responsibility is to invest public dollars in making our public schools the best possible option for the most students.
- Asheville City Schools Foundation
- Chatham Education Foundation
- Community For Public Schools Forsyth County
- Durham Public Schools Foundation
About NC Education Partners
The NC Education Partners is a network of local education foundations and community-rooted nonprofit organizations that support public schools across the state.