Cooper calls for moratorium on Opportunity Scholarships as demand surges among NC families

Gov. Roy Cooper called for a moratorium on spending on the Opportunity Scholarship Program during a meeting of the State Board of Education on March 7, even as demand for the voucher program more than doubled this year.

“Most private schools are not better than our public schools,” said Cooper, a Democrat. “[This] is a reckless waste of taxpayer money … when we send taxpayer dollars to private schools to educate our students without any follow-up or accountability, we’re shirking that responsibility.”

“I am advocating, and more and more people are advocating, that we put a moratorium on private school vouchers until we fully fund our public schools,” Cooper added.

Cooper and fellow Democrats have opposed Republican lawmakers school choice reforms that expanded the Opportunity Scholarship Program to all families, regardless of income.

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt, both Republicans, pushed back on Cooper’s narrative during the meeting.

“I’ve heard a lot about the public education system. I’m concerned about the students and the parents inside of that system,” said Robinson, who is the GOP’s 2024 gubernatorial nominee.

“What’s struck me the most [in my travels] is the amount of conversations I’ve had with parents who have gotten vouchers that have literally transformed their students’ lives,” he added. “Transformed their lives fundamentally. Driven them to be able to go to college, driven them to give their family a better life altogether.”

“Right now, spending on education in the United States has increased even when adjusted for inflation,” Truitt said. “However, gains are flat. New York is now spending $30,000 per student and they’ve seen no movement in [National Assessment of Educational Progress] scores, in reading proficiency or math proficiency, between 2002 and 2020. I know we need to spend more on education, but we don’t have a roadmap to do that right now.”

Republicans also responded to Cooper’s comments on X.

Cooper’s remarks come just days after a record-breaking number of nearly 72,000 applications were receivedfor the Opportunity Scholarship Program, the state’s voucher that helps offset the cost of private school tuition for families who choose that option. That amount is over double the number of current recipients of the vouchers, which stands at 32,341 students.

The Republican-led General Assembly converted the voucher program into a universal one beginning with the upcoming school year. Despite claims from school choice opponents that new vouchers would go to the wealthy, an estimated 70% of renewal and new applications for the vouchers are from poor, working class, or middle class families.

During the State Board of Education meeting, Cooper also claimed, according to surveys, parents are satisfied with the education their children are getting in the public school system. But a Carolina Journal poll from January found that 48% of likely voters are dissatisfied  with the quality of K-12 education in North Carolina, compared to 31% who are satisfied. Seventy-seven percent say that parents are best suited to decide where a child should attend school, compared to 14% who say local school boards should make that decision.

The post Cooper calls for moratorium on Opportunity Scholarships as demand surges among NC families first appeared on Carolina Journal.


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