Parents Show High Demand For School Choice In Multiple States

April 8, 2024

Palmetto Promise is quoted in this piece by Patrick Gleason, originally published in Forbes.

Kevin Costner’s character in Field of Dreams, winner of the Oscar for Best Picture in 1990, was inspired to turn an Iowa cornfield into a baseball diamond after hearing the words, “if you build it, they will come.” In the reality of 2024, meanwhile, state lawmakers around the country are discovering that when it comes to educational choice, if they offer it, families will utilize it.

Take North Carolina, where lawmakers voted last year to make theirs one of the dozen states now offering a school choice program that is available to all families. Legislators in Raleigh did this by removing the income cap for the state’s Opportunity Scholarship program, North Carolina’s more than decade old education voucher program that helps parents send their child to a private school and pay for other education-related expenses.

The first day of March was the annual deadline for families to apply for an education voucher worth up to nearly $7,000 to use in the next school year. Based on the number of applications submitted, demand for school choice in North Carolina is growing.

“The latest reports show that 72,000 families have applied for this program this year alone, a surge of more than 500% over last year,” writes Brian Balfour, policy director at the John Locke Foundation (JLF), a North Carolina-based think tank. “The demand for scholarships has far exceeded the amount of funding the legislature provided for the program in last year’s budget, which has led to speculation that legislators will consider expanding funding for the program this session in order to meet the demand.”

Balfour and many others think lawmakers should go ahead and boost funding for Opportunity Scholarships during the legislative session that convenes this month. “Rough estimates say that about another $300 million would be sufficient to fund all the applicants,” Balfour added. “Not an insignificant amount, but the state is well-equipped to handle it.”

Governor Roy Cooper (D-N.C.), meanwhile, is calling for a moratorium on eligibility expansion for Opportunity Scholarships. In the past week, Governor Cooper reiterated his belief that allowing more families access to Opportunity Scholarships is “the wrong way to go.”

Promoting Public Policy that Helps South Carolinians Flourish

Newsletter sign-up

Stay informed on the important issues facing South Carolina today!