A majority of North Carolinians support private school vouchers, according to a new poll released this week.
Parents For Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC) commissioned the survey of 500 bipartisan voters from Nov. 6-8. The survey results showed 62% support North Carolina's Opportunity Scholarship Programs.
Respondents were mostly women (55%), and 72% of them were white, averaging around 50 years old. About 33% were registered as Republicans, more than 36% were registered as Democrats and 29% were Independent or unaffiliated. However, nearly 43% identified themselves as conservatives.
"In our era of deep division and hyper-partisanship, how many issues garner as much support as we are seeing for the Opportunity Scholarship Program?" PEFNC President Mike Long said. "The reason is simple: Opportunity Scholarships allow low- and middle-income families to send their child to an educational choice that's right for them. This program puts into reality the belief that we should fund students, not systems and bureaucracies. North Carolinians realize this and overwhelmingly support the program."
North Carolina's Opportunity Scholarship Program provides state-funded tuition assistance for low-income students. Lawmakers have recently expanded the program in the budget biennium. The spending bill increased the eligibility income threshold for the program from 150% of the federal reduced-price lunch level to 175%.
The new law also eliminated the $4,200 scholarship award limit and replaced it with up to 90% of what the state spends per pupil at traditional public schools, or $5,850. According to Private School Review, the average private school tuition in North Carolina for the 2021-2022 school year is about $9,639.
However, a group of North Carolina parents and teachers have sued the state and the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority last summer to end the program. The pending lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of private school vouchers. The plaintiffs argue some private schools force students to conform to their religious beliefs, including those surrounding homosexuality and gender.
Half of the respondents to the PEFNC poll opposed the idea that the program is unconstitutional.
"This is going to the battle line of the next year: parents versus bureaucrats. I side with empowering parents by letting education money follow the child," Sen. Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga, said. "We need to fund students, not systems."
In addition, 52% of respondents said if cost and distance were not a factor, they would choose a non-traditional public school option, showing stronger support for school choice.