RALEIGH (June 1, 2023) – State legislators are moving to dramatically expand vouchers to attend private schools this year, lifting income limits on who qualifies and raising state spending on vouchers to more than half a billion dollars a year by 2032-33.1
Make no mistake – budgets are about choices.
And state legislators are choosing to dramatically expand subsidies for private schools at the same time they starve the public schools that educate most of North Carolina’s children.
Budgets also have finite amounts of revenue.
And the General Assembly is moving to raise state spending on private school vouchers at the same time North Carolina ranks 50th among the states for the percentage of GDP it spends on K-12 public education.2
That statistic shows we can certainly do more for our public schools – we have the financial wherewithal. But we – our state legislators – choose not to.
The state ranks 34th in the nation in average pay for public school teachers, and an embarrassing 46th in starting teacher pay.3 The school year started last fall with more than 5,500 teacher vacancies across the state.4
Is there any wonder why?
The Office of State Budget and Management estimates that if the voucher legislation passed separately by the NC House and Senate becomes law, it would cost the state’s K-12 public schools more than $200 million in state funds by 2026-27. Some of the state’s poorest counties in Eastern North Carolina would be hit hardest.5
Legislators’ push for more vouchers also follows a judge’s determination last month in the long-running Leandro case over public school funding that state spending on public education falls $678 million short of the amount to which parties in the case – including the state – agreed.6
North Carolina can do better than this. But again, our legislators choose not to.
1 https://webservices.ncleg.gov/ViewNewsFile/75/H259_v4, pp. 128-129; https://www.wral.com/story/nc-house-passes-bill-to-expand-private-school-vouchers-by-400-million-eligibility-to-all-family-incomes/20865782/.
2 https://edlawcenter.org/assets/files/pdfs/publications/Making-the-Grade-2022-Report.pdf, pp. 19-20.