Home Local News N.C. Senate education leaders move to boost Opportunity Scholarships

N.C. Senate education leaders move to boost Opportunity Scholarships

Students at Victory Christian Center School in Charlotte, N.C. Photo courtesy of National School Choice Week

Republicans have proposed an ambitious expansion of the Opportunity Scholarship Program, opening the private school scholarships to all North Carolina families in a tiered system based on household income.

Senate Bill 406, Choose Your School, Choose Your Future, is sponsored by three the Senate Education Committee chairs — Sens. Michael Lee, R-New Hanover, Lisa Barnes, R-Nash, and Amy Galey, R-Alamance.

Under the current system, Opportunity Scholarships are only available to low and moderate-income families. But under the expansion, wealthier families would have access as well.

“Education funds should follow the student, and we must fund students not systems,” said Galey in a statement. “Expanding Opportunity Scholarships encourages school choice and broadens the options available to families. We must empower moms and dads to make the best decisions for their children.”

“Education is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, and that is why families are clamoring for school choice options,” Lee added. “While Democrats continue to try to abolish the popular Opportunity Scholarship program, Republicans in the Senate have made it a goal to continue expanding school choice.”

Scholarships would be available to the following categories of students:

Students in households with incomes not exceeding that required to qualify for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program, which was $55,500 a year in 2023 for a family of four. These students would qualify for up to 100% of the state’s per pupil allotment for the prior fiscal year. In 2022, that was $7,426.

Students in households with incomes not exceeding 200% of the amount required to qualify for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program, which was $111,000 in 2023 for a family of four. These students would qualify for 90% of the state’s per pupil allotment for the prior fiscal year. In 2022, that was around $6,683.

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Students in households with incomes between 200% and 450% of the amount required to qualify for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program, which was $249,750 in 2023 for a family of four. These students would qualify for 60% of the state’s per pupil allotment for the prior fiscal year. In 2022, that was around $4,456.

Students in households with all other higher incomes would be eligible for 45% of the state’s per pupil allotment for the prior fiscal year. In 2022, that was around $3,342.

First priority in scholarship allocation would be given to the lowest tier of income. The funds would be available to either full- or part-time students.

The changes would kick in for the 2023-2024 school year.

A recent poll put support for the idea of universal Opportunity Scholarships at 68%.

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