North Carolina lawmakers have announced proposed legislation designed to help lower income students improve educational attainment. The news was announced during a rally organized by Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina where North Carolina House Majority Leader Paul Stam announced the North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship Program. Representative Bryan Holloway, chairman of the House Education Committee, also voiced his support the program, and others like it, which would help all children receive the education they deserve. The Scholarship Program is believed to have bipartisan support and will allow children of lower income families to get nonpublic school scholarships from not for profit organizations. The corporation funding these scholarships receive tax credits for their contributions.
Mary Russell, a parent who attended the rally is one mother who wants to place her two children in schools which will meet their academic needs but cannot currently afford to do so.
“We need programs like this to help parents like us provide the quality education each of us wants for our children,” Mary Russell said. “A paycheck should not determine whether your child is in a classroom that truly helps them learn or not.”
The rally was followed by a march attended by a surprise turnout of more than 1,200 people walking around the North Carolina General Assembly in support of the program. PEFNC president Darrell Allison was excited by the high turnout.
“We initially sought out to have 200 people to join us today, but in a matter of two weeks, a couple of hundred turned into more than 1,200 parents and children representing hundreds of thousands of families across our state,” Allison said. “This turnout shows the critical demand for a program that can help families obtain a quality education and help close our state’s socioeconomic achievement gap.”
PEFNC recently released a website and video explaining why education reform and increased choice was desperately needed in the state. As the video states only half of children in the state from working families pass state tests and the failure rate on high school exams for working class children is above 30%. PEFNC doesn’t believe that income and zip should be determining factors in the quality of a child’s education. The website aims to provide a comprehensive, informative and unique perspective in education North Carolina and will include regular features of parents, school leaders and public officials.
For the 2010-11 school year more than 336,000 children from low income families failed grade tests. This figure represents a quarter of all public school students in North Carolina.
Currently only eight other states have similar programs to the Scholarship Program being proposed in North Carolina.