Bad Bill of the Week: Raiding school choice funds

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Raleigh, NC – North Carolina families are hungry for school choice. To wit: the state’s Opportunity Scholarship Program has had more than 15,000 eligible applicants since its inception just two years ago. But only about 5,000 total scholarships were granted for the current school year. Thousands remain on waiting lists.

opportunity scholarshipsAlready far too many families are denied the opportunity to escape failing schools and take control of their child’s educational needs. Disappointingly, legislation introduced last month would reduce funding for the Opportunity Scholarship Program even further.

House Bill 1095, Use of Excess Opportunity Scholarship Funds, would raid $11.8 million of the state funds designated for the opportunity scholarship program and redirect the money toward school construction. The state budget is slated to allocate a total of $24.8 million for scholarships in the coming fiscal year, so nearly half of those families hoping for a lifeline to a better educational opportunity would be denied under HB1095.

There is a long line of North Carolina children desperately hoping and waiting on the chance to be awarded an opportunity scholarship. But is there really a shortage of funds for school construction? If so, why?

Remember how the North Carolina Education Lottery was going to bring a windfall to the state’s education needs?

According to its website, the lottery has contributed nearly $4 billion to the state’s educational institutions, primarily K-12, since 2007. More specifically, the lottery’s funding formula designates 19 percent of funding earmarked for education go toward school construction.

This translates into about $740 million in supplemental funding for new schools across the state in nine years – that’s above and beyond the normal school construction funding amount. Where has that money gone?

Opponents of school choice initiatives are loathe to cede any control over the education of our children. Education bureaucrats, and the politicians who benefit from their support, have too much to gain from the status quo.

Because it would deny educational opportunity to the neediest children and families across our state in order to protect a status quo that is failing far too many of our students, House Bill 1095 is this week’s Bad Bill of the Week.