From Belinda Cauthen and Page McCullough, in response to a column by Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (N.C. corporate tax credit will give opportunities to poor kids, June 14):
North Carolinians want a strong public education system and democratic oversight of taxpayer funds. N.C. voters largely oppose vouchers for private and faith-based schools. In a recent opinion column, Darrell Allison tried to sweep facts away in a fog of misleading statements. The truth is that a school voucher program is wrong for North Carolina.
A bill was modeled by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate interest group that makes no bones about its intent to starve public schools while moving public funds into the private sector. Subsidizing private education for a handful of children at the expense of public schools throughout the state will never lead to fairness for all. A strong, comprehensive public education system for all children is guaranteed by the state constitution.
Fact: Vouchers dont work. Research shows no positive impact on student achievement. The National Coalition for Public Education, representing 50 national organizations, wrote a letter last week to Congress opposing federal funding for a similar program in Washington, D.C., because the program has not been found to be effective in improving educational outcomes for participating students. Sound policy must be based on fact, not anecdotal claims.
Through intensive work and investment, North Carolinas public school system is improving every year. The states annual high school graduation rate is the highest in the states history and our dropout rate is 3.43, the lowest in the states history. On the Nations Report Card from the National Center for Education Statistics, North Carolinas fourth-graders scored 12th in math and 24th in reading. This progress is especially remarkable because North Carolina is among the bottom 10 states in per pupil funding and 45th in teacher pay.
Allison also conveniently overlooked the religious component of the bill. Vouchers could be used at religious schools run by churches, synagogues, mosques and other faith organizations. States such as Georgia are struggling with the consequences of ignoring the separation of church and state such as the use of public funds to purchase faith-based textbooks and supporting the mortgages for church buildings.
A final pesky fact: Allisons group has a profit motive. They are planning to serve as a voucher-granting organization, which will be worth about $8.8 million in administrative fees over five years. Perhaps that is why PEFNC donated to political campaigns and flew N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis and 10 other lawmakers to Florida in March to learn about voucher programs. This excursion may have violated N.C. lobbying laws and standards of ethics. Mr. Allison, shame on you. You can not buy special interest legislation with campaign contributions and a trip to Florida.
School is out for the summer and the short session of the General Assembly is no place to make major policy changes like school vouchers. If you believe HB1104 is wrong for North Carolina, contact your elected representatives today. Tell them North Carolinas public education system is not for sale.