The Opportunity Scholarship Program will provide vouchers to low-income families to send their children to schools of their choice, regardless of ZIP code. Approximately 2,400 eligible applicants will receive vouchers of up to $4,200 each.
The injunction prevented school voucher applications from being processed by the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority, which manages the program. To be eligible for a voucher, applicants must qualify for free or reduced-price lunches at a public school.
Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, said the program is designed to provide low-income families with an educational opportunity they couldn’t afford otherwise.
Statistics from the state’s Department of Public Instruction reported that the average proficiency of low-income students in end-of-grade testing for 2012-13 was 17.4 percent. Students who were not economically disadvantaged averaged a proficiency of 49.8 percent.
However, many critics of the program are concerned that the vouchers, funded mostly by taxpayer dollars, will take money away from public schools.
Rodney Ellis, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said the state constitution should be interpreted to mean taxpayer dollars should not be used to fund private education.
“It is a huge concern for us to see them implement this voucher program in North Carolina and siphon resources from public schools,” he said.
The now-lifted injunction was a result of a lawsuit filed by the NCAE last December. The NCAE will continue to fight school vouchers, Ellis said.
If more applicants are eligible than there are vouchers, the vouchers will be awarded by a lottery, said NCSEAA executive director Steven Brooks.
Brooks said there are about 700 private schools in the state, and the injunction interrupted the process of determining to which schools the vouchers will apply.
“We are unsure of the average costs of private schools and the average costs of schools that are participating,” he said.
Allison said the program is not attacking public education. Instead, school vouchers give students the quality education they deserve but wouldn’t receive based on where they live, he said.
“The statistics show that the current system is not adequately reaching every child,” he said.
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