House lawmakers will consider a revamped plan to provide taxpayer dollars to help send public school students to private schools.
Rep. Rob Bryan, a Charlotte Republican and lead sponsor of House Bill 944, said the new provisions help address concerns about accountability by requiring schools that receive more than $300,000 in voucher money to submit to an audit. Another part of the bill requires schools with more than 25 voucher students to report aggregate test scores.
The maximum voucher is $4,200 for a child who is eligible for free or reduced lunches, or $3,780 for families with income at 133 percent of the threshold that qualifies for the federal program.
In a family of four with an income of about $30,000 a year, the children are eligible for free lunches while those in a home with an income of $43,000 a year are eligible for reduced lunches, according to the state Department of Instruction.
Bryan said the plan will cost $10 million the first year and $40 million the second year as it is phased in. The House plans to put the money in its budget proposal; the Senate plan being considered this week doesn't include the voucher funds.
The N.C. State Education Assistance Authority, which currently offers a college financial aid program, will administer the program.
Bryan rolled out the plan with a group of private school administrators and lawmakers, including Democratic Reps. Marcus Brandon of High Point and Ed Hanes of Winston-Salem. Democratic Sens. Malcolm Graham of Charlotte and Ben Clark of Raeford are also supporters.
Cynthia Perry of Wake Forest also spoke at the press conference. Perry said she wants to send her daughter, who struggles with reading comprehension, to a school with fewer students and more attention from teachers. As a single mother, she can’t afford private school tuition at this point. “I am a parent who only wants the best for her child,” she said.
The House Education Committee meets at 10 a.m. Tuesday to consider the new version of the bill.
Public Schools First NC, which opposes the legislation, called it radical.
“We ask our lawmakers in NC to step up for our children, teachers, and public schools by investing in our schools and lifting our students up from 48th in per pupil funding toward the national average,” the group said in a statement.