Antawn Jamison, former NBA All-Star and All-American for the UNC Tar Heels, lends his voice to urge families to apply for Opportunity Scholarships, which were ruled constitutional by the North Carolina Supreme Court on July 23, 2015. The scholarships, sometimes referred to as vouchers, provide up to $4,200 annually so that low-income children can attend a non-public school of their choice. Of the families who applied last year, nearly 75% were minority.
Since the Opportunity Scholarship Program began in North Carolina in 2014, they have proven highly popular with North Carolina’s families. Demand for the program has consistently been far greater than the number of scholarships available; more than 5,500 applied for the scholarships within the first month for the 2,400 available spots and more than 5,000 families have applied since February for the 2015-16 school year. Nearly half of North Carolina’s private schools (327) have registered to accept Opportunity Scholarship students at their schools.
The Asheville Citizen-Times reports today that interest in Opportunity Scholarships is at an all-time high in Western North Carolina, and one mother from Asheville, Annika Crawley, couldn’t be happier that her young daughter now has the opportunity to attend a non-public school.
“Parents like me need this program,” said Ms. Crawley in a recent video from Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina. “As a parent, you worry about your child — not only education, but the people that they encounter. You see things on the news and it makes you almost want to homeschool, because the first thing you want to do is to protect your child, and so I think having an opportunity — like the Opportunity Scholarships — it gives you a peace of mind. It allows you to broaden your horizons, it allows you to open up your child to other cultures that may not be readily available within the neighborhood that you live in. So it helps expand them on so many levels. I just think it’s a good thing and it shouldn’t be taken away.”
Annika Crawley isn’t alone. We could fill pages with the inspirational stories of children who have blossomed when they were given the opportunity to learn in a setting other than a traditional public school.
But not everyone thinks that minority and other children from families of modest means should have the choices that Opportunity Scholarships provide. And ironically, it’s the so-called “progressives” who are the most ardent defenders of the education status-quo.
Despite the fact that the program enjoys bipartisan support (the original legislation was sponsored by two Democrats and two Republicans and co-sponsored by Representative Martin), Jake Quinn, a community organizer from Asheville (and also a member of both the state Democratic Party’s Executive Committee and a Democratic National Committee Member), can’t wait until Democrats control the General Assembly again so they can end the program.
In the same Citizen-Times article, Mr. Quinn comments “I eagerly look forward to the day, hopefully not too far off, when we can begin undoing the NCGA’s dirty deeds. These vouchers will be among the first to go.”
Mr. Quinn has his allies in the legislature. His own state representative, liberal Susan Fisher, is strongly opposed to the Opportunity Scholarship program. She says in the article that “what it essentially does is it takes advantage of people who are of lower income. It encourages them to take this money and then it falls short of what they really need in order to get a complete education.”
Annika Crawley would probably disagree.
The videos featuring Antawn Jamison and Annika Crawley were produced by the good folks at Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC), a statewide organization that supports greater educational options through parental school choice. For more videos on Opportunity Scholarships, Charter Schools, and Homeschooling, please visit PEFNC’s YouTube Page. Follow them on Twitter at @PEFNC and on Facebook at facebook.com/PEFNC.
For more information on the legislature’s efforts to expand school choice in North Carolina, please read the following posts on this website: The Opportunity Scholarship Act, Supporting our Charter Schools, Apply for an Opportunity Scholarship, An Opportunity to Succeed, The Economics of School Choice, and A Victory for NC Children. We’d also encourage you to read The Life of Brian (Lewis). Mr. Lewis was the political director and chief lobbyist for the North Carolina Association of Educators and once a fierce opponent of Opportunity Scholarships. He now supports the program.
To see if your child is eligible to receive a scholarship up to $4,200 for the private school of their choice, please visit SchoolChoiceNorthCarolina.com.