NC Voucher Program highlighted and questioned
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - North Carolina is using more than $44 million to fund the Opportunity Scholarship Program better known as a voucher program.
Parents can receive up to $4,200 to have their children attend a private school. State leaders also agreed to invest $10 million each year for the next ten years to increase the number of people who can take advantage of the voucher program.
Of the 92 private schools in Mecklenburg County, 52 are registered to receive funds from the voucher program.
"Education is key," parent Latrice Coleman said. "And so if it's not working in the public school and it's able to help another child get a better education - if I may say that - then by all means - utilize the funds."
Coleman's three children attended a Charlotte-Mecklenburg School a few years ago. She wasn't happy about how her kids were getting educated.
"The curriculum, the environment and the classroom structure," she said.
The single mother's kids now attend Victory Christian School and she claims her kids are doing better academically at that private school.
Monday, the group Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina hosted a conversation at Brookstone School.
Brookstone is a private school where about 30 students take advantage of the voucher program. The head of the school, Steve Hall, says those students are getting the help they need to boost their test schools.
"Absolutely whether it be extended day tutoring," Hall said. "Whether it be volunteers who come in and be literacy specialists."
Lawmakers, parents, and educators discussed the impact of vouchers at Brookstone.
Coleman, other parents, and educators told Representative Rodney Moore and Senator Joel Ford the program is making a difference. Moore and Ford participated in the discussion and toured the school. They realize the importance of letting parents decide what's best for their children's education.
"Children are not one size fit all," Moore said. "And some thrive in public school and some thrive in public charters and others thrive in private school."
Senator Joel Ford believes if kids are not making the grade in traditional schools then something has to be done.
"The data says it - that we have some underperforming and failing public schools," Ford said. "But we are working on those. I am a huge public school supporter but we need to make sure our families are empowered with choice."
While lawmakers are hearing from parents and stressing choice, there is a report of how vouchers are working in other states. A report looked at programs in Ohio, Louisiana, and Indiana. The results showed students participating in the voucher program "fared worse academically compared to their closely matched peers attending public schools."
WEB EXTRA: Click here to read the report
Charles Jeter read the report. He is a former state lawmaker and is now works for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District as its Governmental Relations Coordinator. Jeter worries about what will happen when people come to study North Carolina's voucher program.
"My guess is and it's a fair analysis that five years from now they will study North Carolina," Jeter said. "They are going to find the same outcomes."
Jeter says the millions over the next 10 years that will be taken away from public schools to fund private education will hurt students.
"Make no mistake that $144 million is money that will not come into traditional public schools," he said. "That will not go to charter schools. And as a result, we all are going to be worse off giving money to a system that now by all empirical data that fails our students - fails our children."
Lawmakers say they want to study the results before deciding if adding more money to vouchers is the right thing to do.
"I think it works," Moore said. "But I also want to be cautious and look at the outcomes."
"We have to have more discussion about what is the appropriate amount of money," Ford said. "But I do know choice has to be included in those options."
Adding the extra money will allow 2,000 additional families to take advantage of the state's voucher program.
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