North Carolina becomes 9th state to pass universal school choice, the first to do so without GOP trifecta
North Carolina became the ninth state to pass universal school choice when the legislature passed its budget on September 22.
North Carolina is the most recent state to adopt school choice using the Education Savings Account model (ESAs). The program’s funding will increase each year, reaching $520 million by 2032.
ESAs allow parents to use public funds to cover a variety of education expenses, including private school tuition, instructional materials, and homeschooling costs.
Joining the wave of red states passing sweeping school choice legislation, American Federation For Children senior fellow Corey DeAngelis told FOX News Digital that North Carolina is the first state to enact a policy without a GOP trifecta. Republicans currently control both chambers in the state house, however, a Democrat holds the governorship.
“That’s because all Republicans in the legislature cosponsored their school choice bill, just enough votes to override a veto from Gov. Roy Cooper. Arizona Republicans all voted in favor of universal school choice last year, too,” DeAngelis said. “They had one-seat GOP majorities in each chamber. If Republicans in North Carolina and Arizona can pass universal school choice, all red states should be able to get the job done and empower all families with education freedom.”
Back in June, Cooper released a TV ad claiming public schools are “under attack” and slammed Republicans as a “radical legislature” for trying to “choke the life out of public education” by granting “millionaires” tax cuts and vouchers for their children’s private education rather than boosting public school teachers’ pay and providing more funding for public schools.
Prior to the ad, Cooper declared a state of emergency over Republicans’ school choice bill.
Cooper did not immediately respond for comment.
Relations between schools and parents have soured in recent years, particularly in response to academic slowdowns across the U.S. in the wake of COVID-19-related school closures. School choice became a salient issue after the lockdowns sparked a conversation on the scope of teachers unions’ power and the type of content that should be taught to children in public schools.
Republican governors made significant inroads in pushing universal school choice legislation, which did not exist anywhere in the country a few years ago.
Arizona was the first to start the universal school choice trend. In July 2022, the state opened up its Educational Savings Account program to all students, eliminating restrictions that had limited it to those in poor-performing school districts, Indian reservations and those with disabilities.
Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Utah, and West Virginia also implemented ESA models. Oklahoma passed a universal tax credit program and Ohio implemented a universal school voucher program.
Indiana’s “Choice Scholarship Program” allows children in low- and middle-income families to receive vouchers to attend private schools. It turned out that 98% of families are eligible, making it nearly universal.
Heritage Foundation education policy fellow Jason Bedrick told FOX News Digital that North Carolina’s latest school choice move is part of a “growing trend for states to advance universal education choice policies that put families in charge of their children’s learning.”
“North Carolina legislators deserve great credit for listening to parents who have been clamoring for more education options,” he said. “Now all North Carolina families will be able to access Opportunity Scholarships to choose the learning environments that align with their values and work best for their children.”
School choice, which provides all families with alternatives to the public schools they’re zoned for, can be expanded through multiple avenues at the state level, including school voucher programs, tax-credit scholarship programs, individual tuition tax credit programs and deductions, and education savings accounts.
Charter schools, magnet schools, and homeschooling are also forms of school choice.
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