On July 17 in Raleigh, Education Secretary Betsy Devos and Lt. Governor Dan Forest sat down for a roundtable discussion with various stakeholders to talk about the proposed Education Freedom Scholarships.
“Every parent should have the opportunity to choose the best education option for their student. Today, we hosted a powerful discussion led by @BetsyDeVosED
w/ families, educators, stakeholders, and elected officials about the Education Freedom Scholarship proposal,” tweeted Lt. Governor Forest.
The North Carolina legislature has continued to expand school choice options across the state and families have taken advantage of the offerings, resulting in a school choice boom in North Carolina.
In 2018-19, around 20% of the state’s K-12 students were utilizing a wide array of choice options from homeschooling to public charters and Education savings accounts to Opportunity scholarships.
Now a federal level option may enhance school choice options for all states.
The Education Freedom Scholarships would grant up to $5 billion in tax credits to taxpayers who voluntarily make contributions to state-identified Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs) and 501(c)3 non-profits.
Those concerned about the role of the federal government ‘meddling’ in homeschooling or other school choice options, should be pleased to see this is a voluntary tax credit and not a budgeted spending item with federal mandates attached, but rather a program designed by the state.
According to the Dept. of Education, “States can design their programs to work hand-in-hand with existing public education options to enhance individual students’ education experiences, not replace them.”
The scholarships could cover allowable education expenses as defined by States, including, but not limited to:
- Advanced courses, like Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate;
- Elective courses, like art, music, or world languages;
- Credit recovery or other remedial courses;
- Tutoring services;
- Special education services and therapies not required by a student’s Individualized
- Education Program;
- Purchasing educational technology, including learning software or hardware.
- Transportation to education providers outside of a family’s zoned school;
- Open or dual enrollment allowing high school students to earn college credit; and
- Fees for summer education programs and specialized after-school education programs.
The scholarships can be used to expand access to a wide variety of educational programs and services for public school too, to aid students in low-performing schools district schools in both urban and in rural areas. These scholarships can also be utilized in Magnet schools, Public virtual schools; and Public charter schools.
In order for non-profits to qualify for the program, non-profits must be a registered 501(c)3 and be chosen by its state as a participating grant organization. In addition, the non-profit must spend less than 10% of its operating budget spent on administrative costs.