The Latest Effort to Dismantle Public Education
In a recent Public Policy Poll, 81 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, "Public education is an investment in the future." It is unfortunate that some lawmakers do not share this sentiment and instead of working to preserve and protect this important investment, they have chosen to focus on writing legislation to create a program that would funnel state money to private schools under the veil of supporting low-income students.
House Bill 1104, which was filed today, creates a passive voucher. It would give corporations state tax credits for donations made to a program that would provide needy students with $4,000 scholarships to private schools. The bill’s primary sponsors include Representatives Stam, Brisson, Hager, and Brandon. The legislation would allow private nonprofits to receive up to $40 million in state funds in the first year. This money would be diverted away from the state's General Fund and given to support sending children to schools that are not held accountable to taxpayers for spending or for student performance.
There are similar programs in place in eight other states. A recent New York Times article highlighted some of the complications with these programs, including the use of state dollars to attract student athletes or promote religious views. But the largest issue this proposed program presents for North Carolina is that it would take more resources away from public schools that are already struggling to meet basic operational needs.
Our public schools are suffering under another round of significant budget cuts and more are scheduled for the upcoming school year. Many local school superintendents have reported that they no longer have enough resources to support quality teaching and learning in schools that serve nearly 1.5 million children in our state. That is why it is so deeply troubling to me that lawmakers would spend time drafting a bill that would divert more critical dollars away from public school classrooms to support private schools that only serve a fraction of students.
I have written before that I believe home schools, private schools and charter schools play an important role our system of education. What I do not agree with is supporting schools that meet the needs of certain groups of students to the detriment of those schools that meet the needs of many others. If lawmakers are going support private interests instead of working to preserve equity, quality, access, transparency and accountability in our system of education, it is our students who will ultimately pay the price.