North Carolina is 11th state to enact universal school choice

by WorldTribune Staff / 247 Real News October 2, 2023

The North Carolina General Assembly has approved a budget which includes a massive expansion of the state’s school-choice program.

Republicans, who hold a veto-proof majority in the state legislature, effectively made North Carolina the 11th state to enact universal school choice.

The General Assembly on Sept. 22 gave final approval to a budget that aims to triple funding for the state’s Opportunity Scholarship program and end income restrictions for getting a private school voucher, the Charlotte News & Observer reported.

Every North Carolina family will be able to apply for tuition assistance to attend a K-12 private school beginning in the 2024-2025 school year.

Since 2013, the state has offered the North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship Program, an initiative that previously provided funding of up to $5,928 per year for eligible children who choose to attend a participating nonpublic school, a figure that rose to $6,492 for the 2023-2024 school year.

That program provided assistance to nearly 25,600 students during the 2022-2023 school year, according to the program’s self-reported data. Of the 544 nonpublic schools participating in the program, the top 71 grantees by dollars given were all religious, according to the data.

With North Carolina’s new budget, nine states have “went universal” with their school choice programs this year, according to the advocacy group EdChoice. The others are Arkansas, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Utah. In March, Florida became the largest jurisdiction to offer universal school choice when Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB 1 into law. Arizona and West Virginia started implementing similar universal programs in 2022.

Nearly 1 in 5 students in the U.S. now live in a state with universal or near-universal school choice, EdChoice said.

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