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January 31, 2022 1:01 pm
This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs welcomes back Mike Long, President of PEFNC, to discuss the growth in school choice that North Carolina saw throughout 2021, and what we can expect looking forward into 2022.
Welcome to family policy matters in engaging and informative weekly radio show and podcast produced by the North Carolina family policy Council hi this is John Ralston, presidency, family, and were grateful to have you with us for this week's program is our prayer that you will be informed, encouraged and inspired by what you hear on family policy matters and that you will flow better equipped to be a voice of persuasion, family values in your community, state and nation, and now here's our house to family policy matters Tracy to vet bricks.
Thanks for joining us this week for family policy matters.
While we've heard a lot over the past two years about the impact of the pandemic on goals and school performance. There's also been some good news when it comes to the role and choices of parents in the education arena here to talk about that and to remind us of some upcoming deadlines is Mike Long, president of parents for educational Freedom in North Carolina.
Mike long welcome back to family policy matters. It's always wonderful to be with you, Tracy, Mike start by giving us a lay of the land on school choice here in North Carolina. Incredible the education landscape in North Carolina right now 69% of school-age children K-12 are attending the traditional public schools. That's about 1.2 million+. But here's the interesting number 31% of school-age children are now attending schools of choice that 1.2 million used to be 1.5 million, just a couple of years ago attending traditional public schools. It was less than 20%, attending schools of choice. So this is a huge huge rise in families choosing alternative schools and nontraditional schools for their children, which is an amazing number for North Carolina just to give you a lay down now that all homeschoolers hundred and 79,000 magnet schools hundred and 62,000 charter schools hundred and 30,000 private schools, 107,000. Those are amazing numbers and speaks very strongly for school choice in North Carolina coming to give you an opportunity to brag on yourself and in your staff there because I'm a member when you took over this position several years ago and North Carolina seem to be kind of riding high, a lot of people thought we couldn't go any higher.
But you can continue to to excel.
Why is that because school choice are just so many when when it comes to school choice, Tracy. First of all, it levels the playing field for families that are seeking age, educational opportunity, that's a real plus funds due to not system that's huge. It empowers parents know what's best for their children. Not this bureaucracy in Raleigh.
It also saves the taxpayers money and edit reduces overcrowded classrooms. You know those are so many winds that politicians on both sides of the aisle. See, this is real benefits for families and for North Carolina and when you allow school choice among so many people in the state. It also ensures economic equality for all their so many families that are stuck in their ZIP Code school that is failing their kids and now with the scholarship opportunities that North Carolina offers. It gives them the economic opportunity to make decisions that are best for their children. As far as their education and concerns and it frees them from these challenging communities that they might be in an especially challenging public schools. They might be. So there so many winds that this is one of the major reasons why continuing to grow so rapidly and being supported by so many citizens here in North Carolina.
Gov. Cooper has long been a vocal opponent to some aspects of school choice that he recently surprise at least me by proclaiming school choice week in January. Were you surprised by that. Well, not surprised because our governor is a very good politician he is very astute on pole and numbers and what is very popular and when you've got 65% of North Carolinians in support of school choice. I mean, that is something that the governor definitely sees end and therefore make some you know proclamations that might be supportive of school choice. I will say in that proclamation. It's mainly highlighting charter schools, which is fantastic but charter schools are public school and so you know when it comes to opportunity scholarship programs and those kinds of things. He's also made some incredible proclamations that all just simply quote him when talking about the opportunity scholarship on the television show education matters. A couple years ago he said and I quote, but the opportunity scholarship program is an expense we should stop.
He also said that he felt better when dealing with the state's budget. He felt better quote in eliminating the funding for opportunity scholarship programs and he said I do not like there vouchers that when he says there he is referring to the Republican led legislature that have been the leaders in the forefront of the opportunity scholarship. Some school choice throughout the state of North Carolina. So he may make one proclamation for school choice primarily talking about charter public school, but when it comes to the programs that have really grown this whole movement of school choice throughout North Carolina. He is made many proclamations against these programs and and actually wanted to see them stop and still does it. It's a belief that those that are against it. It's a belief that one-size-fits-all and that is, namely the public schools, and so all taxpayer dollars should go only to the public schools when it comes to education.
Well, one size does not fit all when it comes to a child's education, and nobody knows that better than their parents and so what were trying to do here parents for educational Freedom and North Carolina's were trying to empower parents to make those choices and have the ability the economic ability to make those choices so that their kids can be in a school where they thrive and can have greater success than than perhaps one where their stock because their assigned primarily because of their ZIP Code and and they simply feel trapped not opposed to public schools.
Absolutely not. Where were for public schools of the vast majority of parents still attend public but will what we want to see is we want to see them get better.
This is why I think of those that are against school choice. I think it would do them better like the teacher union the MCA E and all of that better so vehemently as opposed to the scholarship programs. I would suggest that they begin the ask the questions why why are so many parents choosing alternative educational resources in order for their children to be to be educating according to their needs, because when they learn why they are leaving the public schools. It will help identify what those problems are and then we would hope that they can improve in those areas so that that does not happen at such a rapid pace. So yes I we are all for the public schools, but were also for the charter schools and magnet schools. The virtual schools the private schools. The home schools all types of schools that meet the needs of children. Carolina has long been a national leader in school choice. Is that still the case that we still leading the nation very much you know we we have so many programs your particular the opportunity scholarship program and then also we have the disability grant that are for children with learning disabilities and other disabilities to get them in a school that best fits those need and also education savings accounts which helps fund what what further need. They have so North Carolina leads with all three, and in many other states look to North Carolina as the model for school choice, or their state as well so were very pleased to be a leader in this throughout the country. Speaking of those scholarship programs there's been an expansion of the North Carolina's opportunity scholarship program.
Correct right in the state budget that we finally got past this year and signed by the governor scholarship amounts in the past have always been around $4200.
At that that is a direct scholarship to a parent that qualifies to pay the tuition of a part of a private school that would meet their children's needs and the current new state budget that was just past that's now increased to $5900 so that is going to help a lot of the OST families out there, be able to get into any of the school. That dinner might have higher tuition and help meet those needs. There also for families to qualify. It was that an income for a family of four was 73,000 a year that could qualify that's now been increased to 85,000 a year. So it's it's working exceptionally well and I just want to remind our listeners that these dollars. Do not take away anything from public school dollars.
These are entirely separate programs from that and if anything, it saves the taxpayer dollars because $5900 is a lot less to educate a child, then approximately $9900 give or take a little bit when you bring in federal funds to educate a child in the public school so these programs are actually saving taxpayer dollars and reducing overcrowded classrooms at the same time and so that's why it's against such a great when the legislature understand this leadership there understands it, but the biggest plus in this is the way that it empowers parents to make those educational decisions rather than the bureaucrats in Raleigh. Hearing this, and I like like like to get in on that scholarship. Thanks, how did they do that and we have some deadlines coming up right sure one of the best places they can go to is part of our organization is called school choice. North Carolina.com that will give you all the deadline information, but the easier approach to could be just our website which is PEF MC.that's parents for educational freedom, North Carolina, and all of the deadlines are there as well. I will say four OSPF applications for the next school year are opening on February 1 and the prior art.
The application window is the month of February so we always recommend applying early.
We have a team of parent liaison mamas.
Those children are also benefiting from opportunity scholarships that will walk through anyone who goes to our firstname.lastname@example.org and just send in your information, we have a team of people that will contact you walk you through the process get you applied with the state get you funded by the state and then will even take it one step further and help you find the school that best meets the needs of your child to little bed about North Carolina being a leader in this area.
What is it about our state.
What is happening in our history. Is there something unique about the people of North Carolina that may this so important to us here.
It has been a long process. Our organization was put together 17 years ago when you have a system in place that the hundred plus years old and that is the current education system that runs the public schools.
It is very very hard to make changes in reforms to something that's been around that long. And so it's just been a process and as and as of the state of North Carolina has implemented these programs about small basis and then seeing the overwhelming reaction of parents for it. It's just been a no-brainer to continue to expanded and expanded, and then finally I'll say we now have a situation where our millennial parents, those that have been you know with the smart phone and all the apps and we have a whole generation of parents now having kids that are reaching school-age that have been inundated with choice through technology through cell phones, smart phones, those kinds of things and so to say to them, those parents that your child is only going to go to school that's in your ZIP Code whether you like it or not, just as in hot settling well with the parents of today and that's why this river is flowing more rapidly. Those parents are going to demand choice and they actually are demanding choice and so in the wisdom of our legislative leadership there hearing these parents and their listening to these parents and their responding to them. That kind of freedom that kind of ability to give your child the kind of education they deserve it hard to fight. It's hard to beat. And so the tide keeps rolling along. Thank you so much for joining us, Mike Long, president of parents for educational freedom in North Carolina. Thanks for being with us today on family policy matters even listening to family policy matters. We hope you enjoyed the program and plenitude in again next week to listen to the show online and to learn more about NC families work to inform, encourage and inspire families across Carolina go to our website it NC family.org that's NC family.org.
Thanks again for listening and may God bless you and your family