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Duke University’s Children’s Law Clinic published a substantive critique (some might say a scathing critique) of the state’s voucher program. Despite the fact that there is no evidence of benefit to the students who use the voucher, despite the lack of demand for vouchers, despite the program’s many weaknesses, the state’s General Assembly wants to put more money into the voucher program.
The report begins:
A new report from Duke University’s Children’s Law Clinic outlines the many ways in which North Carolina’s largest school voucher program continues to suffer from glaring policy weaknesses. These policy weaknesses increase the likelihood that voucher students are receiving an inferior education than their peers in public schools, delivering a bad deal to students and residents alike.
The report – an update to a 2017 study – finds that the Opportunity Scholarship voucher program:
- Is poorly designed to promote better academic outcomes for students;
- Fails to provide the public or policymakers with useful information on whether voucher students are making academic progress or falling behind;
- Demand for the program has fallen short of the General Assembly’s projections, resulting in unused funds in every year since the program’s inception;
- Nearly all voucher students (92 percent) are attending religious schools, more than three quarters of which use a biblically-based curriculum presenting concepts that directly contradict the state’s educational standards;
- The NC State Education Administration Authority (SEAA), which administers the program, has provided the General Assembly with a method to evaluate the program’s academic effectiveness, but the General Assembly has failed to act on the recommendations;
- Unlike many other states, North Carolina places no requirements on voucher schools in terms of accreditation, curriculum, teacher licensure, or accountability;
- A lack of financial monitoring creates risks for students and nearby public schools that must absorb students when private schools fail; and
- Voucher schools are allowed to discriminate against students and their families on the basis of religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity…
Rather than address the program’s many shortcomings, House and Senate leaders are competing to expand these unaccountable programs. Their solution to lack of demand is to loosen eligibility requirements, expand subsidies to families who never intended to enroll in public school, and spend $500,000 per year on marketing.