About the Funding of the Opportunity Grants – What is Kept From Traditional Public Schools

Budgets for the state of North Carolina are made biannually. The current budget that helps fund our schools was put together in 2017. Although, there was the power to come back to a budget and make adjustments in the summer fo 2018, a veto-proof majority led by ultra-conservative NCGA members made sure that the budget they first established in 2017 remained mostly untouched. That’s why they passed it within committee rather than have an open debate with possible amendments.

In short, they used what is sometimes referred to as a “nuclear” option.

That budget includes the following table on how the Opportunity Grant voucher scheme is to be financed. (And please note that is states “due to the CRITICAL NEED in this State to provide for school choice for North Carolina students”).

senatebudgetvouchers

In 2017-2018, almost $45 million dollars were invested in a pool for vouchers.

From Public School First NC.org: https://www.publicschoolsfirstnc.org/resources/fact-sheets/the-facts-about-school-vouchers/

In the 2017-18 school year, 7001 students attended 405 private schools at a cost of $20.3 million. The largest cohort of Opportunity Scholarship recipients attended a single religious school in Fayetteville, with those 201 students making up more than half of its student population. The largest dollar amount, $451,442, went to Liberty Christian Academy in Richlands, NC where 122 of the 145 students are voucher recipients. The 2018-2019 Budget Adjustments bill increased funding for the Opportunity Scholarship program from $45 to $55 million.

Over $24 million dollars that were budgeted for vouchers were never used where there was supposed to be a CRITICAL NEED. If anything deserves an audit for “wasting money” as Mark Johnson did with DPI last year, then maybe this would be the place to do so.

And the state is going to add another $10 (to $55 for 2019) million dollars to the funds this year. If trends stay in place, not all of that money will be used either. But an additional $10 (to $65 for 2020) million will be added for the next year.

Why are we as a state adding more money to a fund that is not being totally used in the first place? Just this past year over half of the funds went unused.  Why put more money in that reserve when it could be used in the actual public school system?

Eventually NC will give over $134 million annually to vouchers by 2027.  Makes one wonder how much money is literally staying in a pool of funds not actually being used and how much money that could have been used to help traditional public schools over a decade’s time.

Just this year alone $24 million dollars could have been used to cover the cuts to DPI and rehire those people who were helping impoverished school systems with coaching and professional development.

$24 million dollars could have hired several hundred teacher assistants.

$24 million could have bought a lot of textbooks.  Maybe a bunch of more iPads?

By 2017, the state will have (according to the current table) invested over $900 million dollars in the least transparent voucher scheme in the entire nation. If we didn’t spend even half of this year’s allotted funds, how much would not be spent in the next decade?

Money that could be helping our underfunded public school system.

There probably exists a line of reasoning by those who champion the use of vouchers that keeping the money in reserve for future use is important because school choice will become a “right” that more and more people will take advantage of. But there is no conclusive evidence that the voucher system actually is working and despite all of the advertising and “privatizing” efforts by many in Raleigh, an overwhelming majority of parents and students still choose traditional public schools.

Remember that aforementioned “due to the CRITICAL NEED in this State to provide for school choice for North Carolina students” part?

There is critical need in traditional need in public schools. And the majority of parents and students “choose” traditional public schools.

Seems odd not to put that money not used back into traditional public schools.

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