41 Days of School Choice: Day 41 – North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship Program Grows in Record Breaking Numbers

Raleigh, N.C. (September 30, 2014) — The American Federation for Children and its state partner, Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC), highlight North Carolina’s ground-breaking Opportunity Scholarship Program as part of its #41 Days of School Choice initiative, to mark the start of the new school year.

Enacted by the General Assembly and Gov. Pat McCrory last year, the program provides a grant of up to $4,200 for qualified families to send their child to a private school of their choice. Within months of the start of the enrollment period, more than 5,500 parents applied to participate in the program, representing the largest waiting list of any choice program in the country.

“North Carolina parents have made it abundantly clear that they care about their child’s future and are committed to ensuring they have access to the same educational opportunities as their wealthier peers,” said PEFNC President Darrell Allison.

“The Opportunity Scholarship Program is vital to the success of our children, our economy and our society because it offers parents a choice where none had previously existed.” Allison continued. “More importantly, it provides immediate relief for children who come from school districts where 80 percent of students cannot read or solve math problems at grade level.”

As a result of the overwhelming demand for the program, in July state leaders expanded the number of eligible program slots to 2,700. To date, almost 2,000 students are officially enrolled and more than 300 private schools in North Carolina are participating in the program’s inaugural year.

Despite a legal challenge to the program that initially blocked state funds for the program, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled on September 19 to allow the disbursement of funds to be distributed for Opportunity Scholarship Program participants this year.

This comes as welcome news to parents like Ikeisha Dunn. The Greensboro mother of three — all of whom have both a learning or health disability and are enrolled in the Opportunity Scholarship Program — said she has seen a difference in the attitudes of her children about learning now that they attend Shining Light Academy.

“Maybe it’s the smaller classroom sizes or the instructors, but my children are excited,” Dunn said. “They want to get more involved and are encouraged to keep going.”

“We applaud the court for seeing the importance of educational choice for North Carolina students and their families,” stated Kevin P. Chavous, executive counsel for the American Federation for Children. “Thousands of working-class families are now able to seek a high-quality learning environment for their children.”

Program Facts:

  • To qualify, a child must be currently enrolled in a North Carolina public school and reside in a household that qualifies for federal Free and Reduced Lunch (about $44,000 for a family of 4)
  • Schools participating in the program must provide parents with annual written report of the student’s progress, including scores on standardized achievement tests
  • Graduation rates of scholarship students must be provided by the school

For more information about North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program visit: http://pefnc.org/

Throughout the 41 Days of School Choice campaign, the American Federation for Children will be promoting programs using the hashtag “#41Days”.

-30-

The American Federation for Children is the nation’s leading school choice advocacy organization and works in states across the country to help secure additional, high-quality educational options for families.

Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC) is a statewide organization that supports greater educational options through parental school choice. Simply put, parental school choice means allowing parents to send their children to their school of choice – traditional or nontraditional– regardless of address or income.