Given the large number of student needs encompassed in special education, Stoops said the issue could be a challenge for many school districts. He said parents should be able to use publicly funded vouchers for tuition and services for a school that better meets their child’s needs.
“ ... It’s difficult to determine the needs of the individual families,” Stoops said. “We hope that traditional public schools would meet those needs, but sometimes they don’t.”
Yevonne Brannon, chairperson of Public Schools First NC, said vouchers cut into public school funding.
“We’re $3,000 less than the national average for per-pupil expenditures, so we don’t need to be diverting our monies into voucher programs, especially the way they’re doing it in North Carolina,” she said.
According to a recent study by the Duke Law School, accountability requirements for North Carolina private schools accepting vouchers are among the weakest in the country.
Jane Wettach, the study’s director, said 93 percent of the vouchers are being used at religious schools.
“(These religious schools) are under no obligation to follow any kind of standard with regard to curriculum, with regard to teacher quality and with regard to graduation standards,” Wettach said. “The fact that we’re using state money to support them is problematic.”
The public cannot compare students using vouchers at private schools and those in public ones due to a variety of testing methods and limited access to test results, Wettach said.
“We don’t really have a way of knowing if our money is being well spent,” Wettach said.
According to a 2013 Public Policy Polling survey, 61 percent of North Carolinians oppose vouchers.
Still, the White House and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have emphasized desires to cut federal funds to public education in favor of giving parents and local education leaders more oversight.
Stoops said pressure is being put on public schools to do many things they were never designed to do.
“If we restore the focus of traditional public schooling to that of providing the basic education we expect all children to have, I think that we would be much more satisfied with the outcomes that our public schools provide and we would see other institutions step to the plate to provide those services that a lot of children need,” he said.