Recently, the North Carolina Supreme Court upheld their state’s school voucher program, adding the state to the growing number of those offering this educational alternative.
The North Carolina program, called the “Opportunity Scholarship,” provides a limited number of taxpayer funds to low-income families who wish to send their children to private school. The program began in 2013 but was put on hold in 2014 when a lawsuit was filed challenging its constitutionality. The plaintiffs argued that the funds earmarked for vouchers were depleting public school resources and that allowing the use of vouchers in non-accredited private schools (often religious schools) violated the law. The majority of the Court disagreed and overturned a lower court decision that deemed the program unconstitutional.
Currently, almost half of the fifty states have implemented some type of voucher, scholarship, educational tax credit, or educational savings account program, providing parents with educational options that may otherwise not be available to them. Each program has its own requirements. Some require students to reside in school districts with failing schools; some require that students have learning disabilities and have an IEP (Individualized Education Program) in the district’s special education program; others have income requirements to enable economically deprived children to escape inadequate schools.
The National Conference of State Legislatures provides a good summary of what programs are available in each state. All of these school choice programs can be attractive alternatives for parents to add to their arsenal of parental choice in education.