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Bill to Send Tax-payer Money to Private Schools

by Lisa Wilbourne

Brown“An Act to Create Opportunity Scholarships” is the name of  House Bill 944, a voucher program sponsored by first-term Republican North Carolina House member and Greenville resident Brian Brown. The program would provide select students scholarships of up to $4,200 per year, but not more than 90 percent of tuition and fees, to attend private schools.

In response to the bill, Uriah Ward, President of the Young Democrats of Pitt County said, “I would never claim that our education system is totally adequate, but instead of attempting to address our problems as a state and as a county, Brown has elected to provide a solution that only addresses the needs of a select few. When I look at public education I don’t see something we need to save our children from, I see something we can save them with. If you don’t think public education is doing our children service, then let’s work together to fix it so that all of our children can get the education they deserve.”

The average amount spent per student in North Carolina in the 2009-2010 school year was $8,451, an amount putting us in 45th place (out of 50!) in per-student spending nationally.

Who will be eligible to receive an “opportunity scholarship?” The bill tells us an eligible child, “Resides in a household with an income level not in excess of three hundred percent (300%) of the federal poverty level.” So, for instance, according to the poverty guidelines, a child in a family of four ($23,550 is the poverty line) would be eligible for a voucher if that family earns less than $70,650 per year. One of the following must also apply: The child must have attended public school the previous semester, have received a scholarship grant the previous year, be entering kindergarten or first grade, be in foster care, be the child of an active-duty member of the armed forces, or have been adopted within the year before applying for the scholarship.

A sampling of eight private schools in Pitt County reveal tuition costs ranging from $135/month to $10,500/year. Seven of the eight schools are Christian. Some use a “Biblical home-school curriculum” and require teachers and administrators to sign statements of faith.

The voucher program would give $40 million in scholarship grants to private schools in the upcoming 2013-2014 school year and $50 million the year after.

If it passes, the voucher program will be administered by the State Education Assistance Authority, created by the General Assembly in 1965 to administer a higher education loan program. The Authority will be able to retain up to one percent annually for administrative costs.

The bill, co-sponsored by Rob Bryan, R-Mecklenburg; Marcus Brandon, D-Guilford; and Edward Hanes, Jr., D-Forsyth, has been referred to the House Committee on Education and, if approved, will go to Appropriations.

For more information on Brian Brown, the bills he has introduced, his voting record, committees he serves on and reports, click here.

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Responses (2)

  1. We need to hold representative Brian Brown accountable for using his position to not only plunder the taxpayers of their money in order to send already wealthy family’s children to private schools, but also that he has voted to raise taxes by reducing the Earned Income Tax Credit, which would mainly harm those who take in a lower income.

    Hypocritical, considering right on his Facebook bio he states “We must bring jobs to our area, but we can only do so through lowering taxes, removing useless and costly regulations, transferring the power of our education system and the decisions that are made back to the local classroom…”

    Of course this sort of behavior is to be expected. He doesn’t serve the interests of working families, and I never expected him to do so. If he truly wanted to help us working people, he would reduce sales taxes, oppose the repeal of the (wealthy) estate tax, and actually raise the EITC rather than lowering it.

    And maybe something about not screwing over the education of children and not defunding college students.

  2. Howard Tepper says:

    I agree totally with Andrew’s comment. One way to kill our public schools is to fund private schools

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