[youtube_sc url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIn4vnpy1RI&feature=player_embedded rel=0 fs=1 autohide=1 modestbranding=1 width=590 ]
Bipartisan legislation that grants private school scholarships to low income children passed the House Education Committee on May 28. House Bill 944 — The Opportunity Scholarship Act — was sponsored by Representatives Rob Bryan, Brian Brown, Marcus Brandon and Ed Hanes.
Locally-based private scholarships have worked well in North Carolina, and the bill’s sponsors are looking to replicate these successes at the state level: The Charlotte Children’s Scholarship Fund, which benefits low-income and predominantly African-American children, saw student performance in reading and math increase by six percentage points after just one year in the program. (Read the full report by the The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.)
HB944 awards 2,000 student scholarships for the 2013-14 school year and 9,000 scholarships in the 2014-1015 school year. Only families with a maximum combined income of $36,000 would qualify at first, and as the pilot program unfolds, the income eligibility criteria would widen to include 9,000 children.
“The record shows that when parents are given a choice about the education of their children, their children do achieve better. The current model in our state, unfortunately, discriminates against children who are at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder and they are disenfranchised from having the opportunity to have a better educational choice only because of the amount of money in their parent’s bank account.” —Joe Haas, speaking before the House Education Committee on May 28, 2013
In order to track student progress and measure the effectiveness of the new scholarship program, the private schools would be required to administer standardized tests and provide written progress reports to parents every year. Student performance would be reported by the school to a state agency which, in turn, would be required to make a report to the General Assembly every year.