Expansion of Private School Vouchers Threaten Public Schools
Senate Republicans plan to expand the Opportunity Scholarship Program, which siphons money away from traditional public schools and to private, religiously affiliated schools. At a time when our public schools are being starved of resources, critics are skeptical about how much these vouchers are needed. A lot of money is likely to go unused, which should be used for public schools that need it.
In the 2015-2016 school year, about 3,500 students got vouchers. This year’s Senate budget increases voucher funding enough to accommodate 34,000 students by 2028.
Of the $17.6 million lawmakers set aside in 2015-2016 for Opportunity Scholarships, about $4.5 million had gone unclaimed by May 25—enough to fund more than 1,000 scholarships at the maximum rate of $4,200 a year. The previous year, lawmakers had set aside $10.8 million, but voucher applicants claimed less than half.
Kris Nordstrom, policy analyst for the left-leaning NC Justice Center is also doubtful the voucher program could sustain enough growth to accommodate 2,000 new students each year. In a report, he said the past two years of the program have shown demand max out at about 8,000 students. Furthermore, Nordstrom says if demand remains constant, and lawmakers proceed with the Senate plan, the result will be a massive $665 million voucher reserve fund by 2028, most of which would go completely unused.