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Education

NC Bill Would Boost Public Subsidy For Private-School Students, Including Local Money

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Ann Doss Helms
/
WFAE
Students at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic School in Charlotte, one of the private schools eligible for North Carolina's Opportunity Scholarships.

North Carolina lawmakers are considering a bill that would increase the amount of public money available to subsidize students in private schools. It would also authorize counties to offer up to $1,000 per pupil in local money for children in private schools.

State Rep. Dean Arp, a Union County Republican, is a lead sponsor of House Bill 32. He told the House Education Committee on Tuesday that county scholarships make sense because most counties supplement state funding for public schools. The bill lets counties "equitably provide an amount to these children, as well, so that the county does not treat differently the children that reside within its borders," Arp said.

The state’s Opportunity Scholarship program currently offers up to $4,200 per school year for low- and moderate-income students who switch from public to private schools. The bill, which was approved by the House Education Committee, would boost that to 70% of the state’s average per-pupil allotment in 2022-23, or just over $4,600.

In 2023-24 it would shift to 80%, which would be almost $5,300 if the per-pupil average of $6,586 holds steady.

The county scholarships could go to students who qualify for state Opportunity Scholarships.

Critics of vouchers say they strip money from public schools and shift it to private schools without taxpayer accountability.

Supporters say parent choice provides the accountability, and the vouchers provider lower-income families the kind of options available to those who can more easily pay tuition.

Arp said Tuesday the current allocation for Opportunity Scholarships is enough to cover the proposed changes. And he noted that the state saves money on students who shift from public schools to private schools, even at 80% of the per-pupil average.

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