NCGOP Leaders Expanded Educational Opportunity; Democrats Opposed | Eastern North Carolina Now

News Release:

National School Choice Week 2016 is January 24-30


 Raleigh, N.C. — The North Carolina Republican Party today released the following statement in honor of National School Choice Week:

"No matter zip code, race, religion or income, every family should be empowered to choose the schooling option that will best challenge their child," said NCGOP Chairman Hasan Harnett. "Republicans have expanded educational opportunity so that each child, no matter their background, will not be restricted to one educational option. Democrats like Ken Spaulding and Roy Cooper have opposed school choice in order to help special interests instead of students and families."

 Passed into law in 2013 by Governor McCrory and the Republican-led General Assembly, the Opportunity Scholarship Program provides scholarship grants of up to $4,200 per year to help eligible low-income children in kindergarten through 12th grade attend a participating private school. Later that year, the law was challenged in a lawsuit sponsored by two liberal advocacy groups, the N.C. Justice Center and the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), seeking to limit opportunities for North Carolina's students.

 Although he has defended the state, Cooper has also spoken out against the scholarship program.

 While Attorney General Roy Cooper initially defended North Carolina against the challenge to the Opportunity Scholarship, he then decided not to appeal an injunction by the Superior Court to stop the program. State leaders, then House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, stepped in and asked the North Carolina Supreme Court to intervene. On July 23, 2015, the North Carolina Supreme Court upheld the Opportunity Scholarship Program. Thanks to Republican leadership, this year's budget expanded the Opportunity Scholarship Program by $14 million over the next two years to give more children an opportunity to succeed.

Background:


"The Opportunity Scholarship Program expands school choice in North Carolina through scholarship grants for eligible children in kindergarten through 12th grade." (North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority, http://www.ncseaa.edu/)

  • "Program provides funding of up to $4,200 per year for eligible children who choose to attend a participating nonpublic school." (North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority, http://www.ncseaa.edu/)

Opportunity Scholarship Applicants increased for the 2015-2016 school year.

  • 2014-2015 school year: 5,558 total applicants and 4,218 eligible applicants (North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority, "Opportunity Scholarship Program Summary Of Data," http://www.ncseaa.edu/)
  • 2015-2016 school year: 7,761 total new applicants, 5,545 eligible new applicants and 1,112 renewal applicants (North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority, "Opportunity Scholarship Program Summary Of Data," http://www.ncseaa.edu/)

This years budget expanded funding for the Opportunity Scholarship Program by $14 million over the next two years.

  • "The proposed budget would expand opportunity scholarships by $14 million over the next two years to increase the number of low-income kids who can attend private schools. This summer, the N.C. Supreme Court ruled private school vouchers constitutional, which reversed a ruling last summer by a superior court judge." (Barry Smith, "New Budget Could Double Opportunity Scholarships," Carolina Journal, 9/24/15)

Liberal groups file lawsuit challenging the Opportunity Scholarship Program.

  • "The N.C. Association of Educators and N.C. Justice Center are sponsoring the lawsuit, arguing that the vouchers are a broad assault on the state's public schools as it funnels taxpayer money to private schools." (Reema Khrais, "NC Groups Sue State Over 'Unconstitutional' Private School Vouchers," WUNC, 12/12/13)

Roy Cooper and Ken Spaulding oppose school choice.

  • "Overcrowded classrooms for public school teachers and layoffs for teacher assistants to fund private school voucher programs." (Roy Cooper, Op-Ed: North Carolina: Threatening Fifty Years of Progress in Ten Months, Huffington Post, 1/23/14)
  • "'The endorsement by the NCAE will not deter me from filing for Governor,' [Ken Spaulding] he added, 'and will not deter me from fighting for our rank-and-file public school teachers to reinstate 'teacher tenure' and will oppose 'private school vouchers' which are bleeding money away from our public schools.'" (Laura Leslie, "NCAE endorses Cooper early in gubernatorial race," WRAL, 12/9/15)

Roy Cooper supporters, the North Carolina Association of Educators, oppose Opportunity Scholarships that give low-income students financial assistance to attend private school. (Mark Binker, "NC Supreme Court says vouchers are constitutional," WRAL, 7/23/15)

Roy Cooper chose not to appeal Superior Court injunction against the opportunity scholarship program, forcing Republican state leaders Tillis and Berger to intervene.

  • "Lawmakers and the state's chief lawyer disagree on how best to defend a pair of lawsuits challenging North Carolina's new school voucher law." (Mark Binker, "Cooper, lawmakers split on how to pursue vouchers case, WRAL, 1/14/14)
  • "In a news release Friday, House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, were critical of Attorney General Roy Cooper's refusal to ask higher courts to strike down a Superior Court injunction against instituting the program." (Mark Binker, "Cooper, lawmakers split on how to pursue vouchers case, WRAL, 1/14/14)
  • "Late Monday, House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger made good on their threat to seize the reins from Attorney General Roy Cooper in the school voucher litigation, asking the Supreme Court to let them step in and press their case for letting the voucher program move forward." (Sharon McCloskey, Tillis and Berger jump into the voucher lawsuit, NC Policy Watch, 4/16/14)

Speaker Moore and President Pro Tem Berger fought to have the Opportunity Scholarship move forward for the 2015-2016 school year.

  • "Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and House speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) filed a motion Tuesday asking the state Supreme Court to allow the controversial school voucher program to proceed for the 2015-16 academic year while the high court continues to debate the constitutionality of allowing families to use public dollars for tuition at private schools." (Lindsay Wagner, "Berger, Moore ask NC Supreme Court to allow school voucher program to go forward this fall," NC Policy Watch, 6/24/15)

North Carolina Supreme Court upheld Opportunity Scholarships.

  • "The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled 4-3 Thursday that the state's voucher program that gives taxpayer support for low-income students to attend private schools is constitutional." (Mark Binker, "NC Supreme Court says vouchers are constitutional," WRAL, 7/23/15)


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