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Groups fight over a nonexistent lawsuit

The N.C. Association of Educators is threatening to sue over the voucher provisions in the state budget.

The budget includes $10 million to spend next year to pay private school tuition beginning in the 2014-15 school year for children from families that meet income limits.

There's no voucher program yet, and no lawsuit. But that' hasn't stopped the cross-talk between NCAE and voucher proponent Parents for Educational Freedom that's come in the form of letters to legislators.

NCAE President Rodney Ellis sent legislators a letter Monday saying the NCAE would "immediately pursue legal challenges" against "the constitutionality of taxpayer dollars to be used for private and for-profit schools."

Darrell Allision, president of Parents for Educational Freedom, responded with his own letter to legislators dated Wednesday calling the lawsuit threat "misguided at best."

Durham makes charter school growth list

Durham is the state's only county with at least 10 percent of its students enrolled in charters, according to a recent report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Nationally, more than 100 districts have at least 10 percent of students enrolled in charters.

Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina pointed to the report as evidence that parents are demanding "high quality educational options."

"We hope that our education leaders continue to increase the number of quality public charters, especially in rural areas and other parts of the state where there is great need for high quality schools," Parents for Educational Freedom's Darrell Allison said in a statement.

But this statistic is an example why Durham education and political leaders are resisting more charters there. They say charters drain money from traditional schools.

Education advice for McCrory. Privatize. Or Don't.

Governor-elect Pat McCrory got a welcoming message from a group that wants more charters and public money to support private-school education.

“We look forward to working with the McCrory administration to create more quality parental school choice options for all families that will help prepare their children for a 21st century economy," says Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina.

The group worked for the law last year that eliminated the cap on charter schools, and this year pushed unsuccessfully for a law that would have corporations get dollar-for-dollar tax refunds for contributions to private school scholarships.

Candidate McCrory expressed support for more charters and for some type of taxpayer-supported private school scholarships.

Calls go out for tax-break funded scholarships

Parents for Educational Freedom NC, pushing a bill that would give corporations 100 percent tax breaks for contributions to private school scholarships, says more than 4,000 people have called lawmakers in less than a week supporting the measure.

The group had a big march and rally for the bill a few weeks ago. Scholarships would be available to students from families with incomes not more than 225 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $50,000 for a family of four.

The bill has not had a committee hearing, but Minority Leader Paul Stam, an Apex Republican, continued to work on revisions last week.

The bill is highly controversial. NAACP President William Barber criticized the proposal yesterday as a plan to privatize schools.

In a letter to legislative leaders, Barber wrote: "The Stam Plan will cause North Carolina to lose much-needed revenue from wealthy corporations. They can divert the tax money they owe to the state to private nonprofits to finance private schools."

Parents for Educational Freedom President Darrell Allison countered with his own statement: "The perception that this measure is part of a right wing, anti-public school agenda is not the case. Low income parents don’t care what the educational model is, whether public or private. They just want a school that works."

Group plans march for private school scholarships

Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina has planned a Tuesday afternoon rally and march to push for a program that would use corporate tax breaks to get more low-income students in to private schools.

Parents for Educational Freedom paid for a trip for 11 legislators, including House Speaker Thom Tillis, to learn about the tax credit program, N.C. Policy Watch reported last week.

Tillis general counsel Jason Kay and Educational Freedom lobbyists also went on the Florida trip with the bipartisan group of lawmakers.

Attachment-2008 State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion-PEFNC.PDF

Forum to boost charters and tax credits

National school voucher and charter school champions will participate in a forum in Raleigh a few days before the new legislative session begins as part of a campaign to change education policy in North Carolina.

Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, which is working for more charter schools and tuition tax credits, is bringing in former Milwaukee school superintendent Howard Fuller and Peter Groff, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, to Raleigh for a Jan. 24 forum.

Fuller championed a school voucher program in Milwaukee. Groff is the former president of the Colorado Senate. State legislators will also participate, said Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Freedom.

The state group sponsored free viewings of the documentary "Waiting for Superman," this fall that Allison said more than 2,000 people attended. 

The new Republican legislature has promised to lift the 100-school limit on charters, and legislators are likely to see a proposal for tuition tax credits.

Push begins for tuition tax credits

Big changes are head for education in the state. Republicans have promised to raise or remove the limit on charter schools. Legislative leaders are interested in merit pay for teachers.

Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina wants tuition tax credits for parents who send their children to private schools to be among the legislative initiatives.

"It's a paradigm shift we need to embrace in the 21st century," said Darrell Allison,  the group's president.

Incoming House Majority Leader Paul Stam of Apex filed two bills for tax credits in the last two years, one focused on special needs children and the other a boarder measure that would allow a $1,250 credit per semester for parents who meet income guidelines. The taxable income limit for a couple filing jointly would have been $100,000.

The legislative Fiscal Research Division estimated that, if about 11,500 tax credits were granted, the state would save about $28.8 million a year in the first year because cost of the credit is less than the state's cost to educate each child. 

Stam said he expects someone will propose tuition tax credts again next session, and he gives the bill a good chance to pass.

"I'm right optimistic," he said.

Allison lays out an option for refundable tax credits up to $4,000 a year for parents who send their children to independent private or religious schools.

"When you look at tax credit programs, they generated significant savings," he said.

Tax credit and voucher programs are controversial in the cities and states that use them, and there's a debate whether the children who attend private schools using tax credits do better than their public school counterparts on standardized tests.

If tax credits get any traction, Stam has a PowerPoint ready.

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