The pushback on vouchers has been simmering for a while now, but garnered a bit more attention when North Carolina’s top school official, Dr. June Atkinson, decided to make a rather poor analogy:
“With the voucher legislation that we have we could be in dangerous territory as far as taxpayers’ dollars going to private schools,” she said prior to speaking to the N.C. School Boards Association’s Public Policy Conference. “There is nothing in the legislation that would prevent someone from establishing a school of terror.“ – WECT
This sentiment, albeit toned down, was recently echoed by Mt. Airy Board Chair Wendy Carriker. Emphasis added:
Carriker said the voucher program does not require participating private schools to engage in non-discriminatory admission practices and said it requires the State Board of Education to reduce funding to each local board of education in an amount equal to the local board’s per pupil allocation for average daily membership multiplied by the amount of students who receive vouchers and were enrolled in the local board’s schools in the prior semester. – Mt. Airy News
Well the first part of that statement is a bit silly. In other words, how dare a parent choose a school on their own knowing full well what they do or don’t endorse? What kind of ‘discriminatory practices’ could Carriker possibly be talking about? Where’s her evidence that this happens or that a school like that would be included in this program? None. It’s conjecture. She’s seems to be trying to play up the Myrtle Grove Christian school story without actually using the ‘schools of terror’ moniker Atkinson did. Myrtle Grove doesn’t participate in any voucher system nor will it — but that’s besides the point… Schools of Terror, ya’ll!!
Carriker does seem to be a bit more worried about the funding though. Her logic also doesn’t really track there either, if ‘x’ amount of students leave for a non-public school, doesn’t that reduce the burden on that school? Further down, the objections are solidified and we see what this really is about by looking at the suit that has been filed. From Mt. Airy News again with emphasis added:
Parts of the complaint assert public dollars are being used for a non-public purpose outside of the constitutionally required “general and uniform system of free public schools,” diversion of public dollars from the State School Fund and creating a system of selective secondary educational opportunities which deny students equal opportunities.
Money. It’s all about the money.
That first sentence sort of contradicts itself. It’s the public taking advantage of these funds which come from taxes they paid in order to choose a school on their own. What has the hackles of Atkinson and other public school officials up is that someone might choose a school other than a public one. This lawsuit and the surrounding comments smacks of protectionism. Protectionism of what they consider their money for their system.
It’s also a loss of control; private schools don’t have to use Common Core yet, though many have. Common Core is an unmitigated train wreck, but how dare parents want to get their kid off before it crashes? Atkinson is now president-elect of one of the two bodies responsible for the Common Core Standards and of which hold the copyright on them. How would it look if school choice took hold in her state on top of the resistance she’s meeting on Common Core? Not good I’d bet. School choice has become a two-pronged threat, therefore it must be cast in the worst light possible. So, sue or something!
Read The Bill
I’ve looked at the SB 402 (Appropriations Act 2013) and both of these ladies are a little off base. The section in question is the “Opportunity Scholarships” section. The schools are picked to participate and do have various requirements placed on them. The entity in charge of vetting the list of eligible schools for this program is overseen by the State Education Assistance Authority and The Division of Nonpublic Education, Department of Administration. Oh no, look – a requirements section!:
(5) Nonpublic school. – A school that meets the requirements of Part 1 or Part 2 of this Article as identified by the Division.
A little further down:
“§ 115C‑562.4. Identification of nonpublic schools and distribution of scholarship grant information.
(a) The Division shall provide annually by February 1 to the Authority a list of all nonpublic schools operating in the State that meet the requirements of Part 1 or Part 2 of this Article. The Division shall notify the Authority of any schools included in the list that the Division has determined to be ineligible within five business days of the determination of ineligibility.
(b) The Authority shall provide information about the scholarship grant program to the Division, including applications and the obligations of nonpublic schools accepting eligible students receiving scholarship grants. The Division shall ensure that information about the scholarship grant program is provided to all qualified nonpublic schools on an annual basis.
In fact, these schools eligible have to be accredited by the State Board of Education. Clearly, a “school of terror” would not be eligible.
SECTION 8.29.(c) G.S. 115C‑555 reads as rewritten:
“§ 115C‑555. Qualification of nonpublic schools.
The provisions of this Part shall apply to any nonpublic school which has one or more of the following characteristics:
(1) It is accredited by the State Board of Education.
(2) It is accredited by
the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.a national or regional accrediting agency.
(3) It is an active member of the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools.
(4) It receives no funding from the State of North Carolina. For the purposes of this Article, scholarship grant funds awarded pursuant to Part 2A of this Article to eligible students attending a nonpublic school shall not be considered funding from the State of North Carolina.”
These schools, if chosen, also have a list of obligations to uphold, a list is included in section § 115C‑562.5. “Obligations of nonpublic schools accepting eligible students receiving scholarship grants.” It should also be noted that if the non-public school does not comply with the provisions dictated for them to receive funds, they automatically won’t qualify for the program the next year.
Won’t somebody please think of the children!?
Here’s who Atkinson and Carriker are denying the chance at choosing their own education are in fact the ones who need this program the most: low-income students.
(b) Scholarship grants awarded to eligible students residing in households with an income level not in excess of the amount required for the student to qualify for the federal free or reduced‑price lunch program shall be for amounts of up to four thousand two hundred dollars ($4,200) per year. Scholarship grants awarded to eligible students residing in households with an income level in excess of the amount required for the student to qualify for the federal free or reduced‑price lunch program shall be for amounts of not more than ninety percent (90%) of the required tuition and fees for the nonpublic school the eligible child will attend. Tuition and fees for a nonpublic school may include tuition and fees for books, transportation, equipment, or other items required by the nonpublic school. No scholarship grant shall exceed four thousand two hundred dollars ($4,200) per year per eligible student, and no scholarship grant shall exceed the required tuition and fees for the nonpublic school the eligible student will attend.
Like I’ve said with just about every complaint about legislation this year: READ THE BILL.
Update: Thank you to Carolina Plott Hound for linking.