North Carolina lawmakers have approved a sweeping expansion of its Opportunity Scholarship Program, providing more school choice for children in The Tar Heel State. In doing so, the state joins Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Florida, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, and West Virginia in approving universal school choice; expanding educational opportunities for more families.
The Republican-led legislature passed the expansion of the program, begun in 2014. Democrat Governor Roy Cooper, an opponent of school choice, announced he will allow the legislation to become law without his signature. Interestingly, Governor Cooper, like Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, opposes school choice for all but his family.
The new law will increase school choice spending from $176 million this year to more than $520 million in ten years. This school year, over 25,000 North Carolina children took advantage of Opportunity Scholarships.
The program will now be available to all North Carolina families while prioritizing the lowest-income families first. Four income tiers will be eligible for the scholarships, based on a family of four:
- Household income of less than $55,000.
- Household income of less than $111,000.
- Household income of less than $249,750.
- Household income of more than $249,750.
Families with lower incomes would be eligible for the full scholarship amount, approximately $7,400 for the current year, while households in the subsequent three income brackets would receive scholarships at rates of 90%, 60%, and 45%, respectively.
Tommy Schultz, CEO of the American Federation for Children, applauded the state’s decision:
“North Carolina’s bold step to expand the Opportunity Scholarship Program is not just a victory for its families; it’s a rallying cry for the rest of the nation. Let this be a resounding message to every state: the time is now to put students and families first, to break down barriers, and to empower parents with the freedom to choose the best education for their children.
“Today’s victory would not have happened without the tireless families and advocates who worked for years to get to this moment, including our partners at Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina.”
According to research by SurveyUSA, majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents in Kansas would be more likely to vote for a candidate supporting school choice. The state expanded its tax credit scholarship program this year, and James Franko, President of the Kansas Policy Institute, owners of The Sentinel, calls for Kansas to continue its momentum toward universal school choice:
“It’s almost more noteworthy that states aren’t enacting universal school choice programs than to note that another state has enacted one. The victory for North Carolina families confirms that the wave of pro-student reforms hasn’t crested. Indeed, it continues to grow as Texas and other states look to make educational choice a universal reality. Kansans should be proud of the new opportunities provided to kids with our tax credit scholarship program while looking to that as the starting line not the finish.”