From Tom Campbell, a former assistant N.C. treasurer and host of NC SPIN, a statewide television talk show:
Momma always said you can learn more listening than you can speaking, so now that a judge has called a temporary halt to North Carolina’s school voucher program, let’s spend time in listening to both sides of this issue. And the best way to get information is to ask questions.
For starters, why do we need vouchers? North Carolina’s Constitution mandates a sound basic education is to be made available to every child in our state at no cost. So why would a parent choose to pay for something already provided for free? The obvious answer is the parent doesn’t believe the free education being provided is best for their child. Why not?
If North Carolina is to provide vouchers why did our legislators choose to offer them only for low-income students and not everyone? I’m told that lawmakers wanted to ensure that low-income students aren’t trapped in failing schools and have choices for better education opportunities. Voucher opponents say this was merely a carefully designed ruse, a first step, to implement school vouchers for everyone beginning with a segment of our population it would be hard to deny needed them.
Why would a low-income parent apply for a voucher? The first year of the program allows for 1,700 vouchers to be provided to low-income students. We’re told more than 4,000 have applied before the deadline. From what I’ve heard tuition at most private schools is more than the $4,200 our voucher program would provide and it is more than likely parents would have to come up with more cash out of pocket. Why would a family supposedly struggling to make ends meet choose to do this?
I’m listening to the opponents and trying to understand why there is such heated disgust with the concept.
Why is it unconstitutional to spend public money for private schools? Doesn’t North Carolina already do so? We give tuition tax credits to students attending private colleges, saying it relieves our public universities from needing more classroom and dormitory space. Why is a public school voucher any different?
And why do voucher opponents claim it will raise the cost of education when the voucher is only $4,200 and North Carolina’s average per pupil expenditure is more than $8,600 per year? Won’t the schools be saving $4,400 per year per child?
Why are voucher opponents so worried that a large number of students will flee public schools, leaving them with children with behavioral, learning or physical disabilities – students who would be harder and more expensive to educate? Isn’t that an admission that public schools are not doing a good job educating our children?
I am trying to be open-minded and listen to both sides of this debate but quite honestly have not formed a strong opinion.
Why not fix the schools instead of giving money to kids to attend private schools? Isn’t my first responsibility as a parent to advocate for my child to get the best education opportunities possible? Why would any parent want to leave excellent schools?