A New Horizon: School Choice Becomes Law in North Carolina, Transforming Education | Eastern North Carolina Now

The wait is finally over. North Carolina has a solidified new state budget, and it includes a major victory for families across the state.

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    Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of the John Locke Foundation. The author of this post is Bethany Torstenson.

    The wait is finally over. North Carolina has a solidified new state budget, and it includes a major victory for families across the state.

    The Republican-led budget, passing 26 to 17 in the Senate and 70 to 40 in the House, also had five Democrats crossing the aisle pledging their support. Gov. Roy Cooper is set to let the $30 billion budget become law without his signature.

    Every single North Carolinian will experience the effects of this new budget as it molds services and protocols for families across our state, including several new provisions for our students.

    North Carolina has officially become only the tenth state in the nation to enact universal school choice.

    The new budget includes the massive expansion of the Opportunity Scholarship Program, which will allow all North Carolina families to opt-in for private education and then be provided vouchers ranging in amounts from $3,200 to $7,500 per child. Those vouchers will cover tuition costs for a school of their parent's choice.

    Back in May, Locke examined the history of North Carolina's Opportunity Scholarship Program, highlighting that this program was limited to students from low- and moderate-income households, and due to those restrictions, many were placed on waiting lists.

    The new budget provisions will now extend this opportunity to all families across the state.

    Funding for the program would increase each year, reaching $520 million by 2032, resulting in North Carolina having the second-largest school voucher program in the nation, behind Florida.

    These changes are set to go into effect starting in the 2024-2025 school year.

    Following the budget's passage, Donald Bryson, CEO of The John Locke Foundation, commended the legislature for their hard work on behalf of families and students in a statement reading:

    "Today, families across the state are celebrating the momentous passage of the expansion of the Opportunity Scholarship Program. The North Carolina House and Senate's decision to secure education autonomy for all families comes at a time when it's most needed...the next generation of North Carolinians must compete at a global level, and we want our state's youngest citizens to be well-prepared by accessing the best education possible."

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    In addition to universal school choice, budget allotments include pivotal pay raises for teachers, school support staff, bus drivers, and state employees. You can read to learn more about these additions in depth here.

    While we know the fight to prioritize students isn't over, educational freedom is now a reality for our kids.

    Thanks to our ongoing efforts and the hard work of our lawmakers, parents are exactly back where they belong: in the driver's seat of their children's education.

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