Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC) recently released a White Paper debunking a report on the NC Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP).
“We are releasing this paper now to set the record straight,” PEFNC President Darrell Allison said in a statement. “Data to date offer no evidence that Opportunity Scholarships are unlikely to improve low-income students’ outcomes in North Carolina.”
The report produced in March by the Children’s Law Clinic at Duke Law School is inherently flawed, according to PEFNC.
PEFNC’s paper takes on the Duke researchers’ claim that the OSP is unlikely to improve student outcomes. PEFNC’s paper also clarifies what the data shows about the performance of student in the state.
PEFNC Corrects The Record
PEFNC hits Duke’s report for “misinformation about school choice research nationwide” and claims the Duke report is not an “apples-to-apples” comparison.
Carolina Journal reported on this issue and cites director of research and education studies at the John Locke Foundation, Dr Terry Stoops.
“There was never enough data to make any sort of sound comparison to public schools or any sound assembly of how voucher students are doing,” Terry Stoops, the director of research and education studies at the John Locke Foundation, explained.
Duke Law School eventually released a corrected version of the report and removed some direct comparisons between scholarship students and public school students, but the study still claims that the Opportunity Scholarship Program lacks accountability and that studies of other similar voucher programs in other states unanimously condemn school choice programs.
“They would have had to retract the entire thing in order to make it satisfactory,” Stoops argued. “This was clearly Duke University acting in a partisan manner.”
“We’ve long believed that accountability for the Opportunity Scholarship Program would require an assessment comparing scholarship recipients to their peers in public school,” said PEFNC President Darrell Allison.
“This evaluation does just that, while also providing critical qualitative feedback on the Program as well,” Allison continued.
“It is essential to our organization that we all, as a coalition of K-12 stakeholders, work together for accountability in our state’s schools. It is our hope that by engaging in this process, we will lay a firm foundation for real and ongoing accountability in this Program,” added Allison.
About the OSP
The program awards scholarship money which covers tuition and required fees at a
participating nonpublic school. The total dollar amounts currently awarded are up to $2,100 per student per semester or $4,200 per school year.
Eligibility is tied in part to household income. The OSP program targets low-income households. Below are the income requirements currently in place.
The funding for the OSP program does not ‘steal from the public education budget’ as so many media outlets and anti-choice legislators would have one believe.
The OPS has it’s own separate reserve funding established under G.S. 115C-562.8. That funding is appropriated from the General Fund.
The current budget has increased the spending on the scholarship program due to the increased demand. The General Assembly included in the budget an increase to the Opportunity Scholarship Grant Fund Reserve of $10,000,000 each fiscal year for 10 years.
The appropriation for 2017-18 will be $44,840,000. By 2026-27, the amount will have increased to $134,840,000.
Eligibility has two parts. For part one, to be eligible for the program, a student must meet the following requirements:
- Is a resident of the state
- 5 years old on or before August 31
- Has not yet graduated from high school
- Has not been to college
- Live in a household whose income meets certain threshold qualifications
For part two, at least one of the following requirements must be met:
- Received an Opportunity Scholarship last year
- Is entering kindergarten or 1st grade
- Is in foster care or was adopted within the last year
- Was a full-time student attending a NC public school or Department of Defense school in NC last spring semester
- Has a parent on full-time active duty with the military
OSP By The Numbers
The OSP continues to grow in popularity and now serves around 33,000 students in the state.
In the 2014-15 school year, 5,558 students applied. The number of applicants jumped to 8,675 the following year.
By 2016-17, the number of those applying surged again to 9,395. The 2017-18 school rose past 10,000 applicants.
A detailed summary of the OSP’s growth and other data can be found at the NC State Education Assistance Authority website.