(The following is from Mike Long, President of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, in response to the Capitol Broadcasting Company’s editorial, “Private school vouchers to be even more open to corruption, waste” 5/10/19)
Those are the words of the Capitol Broadcasting Company’s (CBC) latest attack on North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program. The program currently enables over 9,600 students from low-income and working-class families in North Carolina to attend the private school of their parents’ choice.
These families are taxpayers, too. But CBC is protecting systems and the status quo, playing politics, and demonizing educational choice.
Here is the downright disrespectful and harmful language used by CBC’s editorial board in full:
“If these parents were spending their own money, Clark might have a case. But these parents are not spending their own money, it is OUR money, tens of millions of dollars’ worth. We not only have the right, we have the responsibility to be sure that OUR tax dollars are being spent as intended – to educate North Carolina children.”
“Our money” is nothing more than a disingenuous attempt to turn one group of people—those of us paying taxes but not using a “scary” voucher—against another group of people—those of us paying taxes who use an Opportunity Scholarship.
Even Governor Roy Cooper says Opportunity Scholarships are “an expense that we should stop” while talking about investing more in education. Apparently to the governor, poor and working-class families are nothing more than “an expense.”
Divide and conquer is his plan, pitting those families against the state that thinks it knows best where parents should send their kids to school.
The governor and CBC are demanding that “our money” shouldn’t be allocated to “these parents” unless the state controls every penny, regardless of the accountability requirements already in place, the positive impacts schools of choice have on their students, and the overwhelming support for the Opportunity Scholarship Program from the parents using it.
Thousands of families on the Opportunity Scholarship Program (taxpayers, mind you) dig into their own pockets every month to cover what’s left in tuition and fees after the Opportunity Scholarship has provided them a much-needed boost. Yet, there is a real disconnect when CBC questions if “these parents were spending their own money.”
Parents are outraged by this rhetoric, including this response from an Opportunity Scholarship mom on Twitter:
“Excuse me, I’m a taxpayer too and an OSP mom. My school is accountable to me through my son’s test scores and regular updates from his teachers. Your commentary is disrespectful to families like mine.”
On the larger accountability conversation, what parents hear when the protectors of the system say “there is no way to check” or “there is no way to know” regarding accountability is that those protectors believe accountability is owed to the governor and the state—not them.
True accountability should stem first and foremost from families, who for whatever reasons felt the school they were zoned to attend was not accountable enough to the needs of their individual child.
True accountability should include test scores, which all schools use. But there is more to it than that. A recent survey (yes, our organization conducted it as families submitted their own answers) revealed that families on the scholarship overwhelmingly support it. Of the nearly 1,500 families surveyed, 97% are happy with their child’s academic progress, 99% say their child feels safe, and 97% are satisfied or very satisfied with the Opportunity Scholarship Program.
Finally, there are additional requirements of Opportunity Scholarship schools administered by the North Carolina Education Assistance Authority.
Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina is about providing families and children with the learning environment that best meets their needs, not about protecting archaic systems. We are not about dividing families and communities based on socio-economic status or zip code.
We stand with ALL parents and their children who simply desire the best education and school of their choice.
Mike Long is a 35-year educator with experience as a middle school teacher, an AP US History teacher, a high school principal and a Head of School. Long is the President of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, a non-profit organization that advocates for quality educational options through parental school choice