RALEIGH – Leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly intervened in ongoing litigation on Monday to protect education access for working-class families during the pandemic.
The lawsuit legislative leaders are intervening in seeks to eliminate the state’s Opportunity Scholarships for students, which provides income-based scholarships of up to $4,200 for low- and middle-income families to send their child to a school that best fits his or her needs.
The move to online-only school during the pandemic has highlighted the immense need for the Opportunity Scholarship program. Well-off families are able to afford additional resources like at-home tutors and top-of-the-line technology, while low-income families are struggling to keep up.
Those that oppose the Opportunity Scholarship want to reserve school choice for only the privileged few who can afford it.
Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) asked a court to dismiss the constitutional challenge to the program that was previously upheld by the North Carolina Supreme Court in 2015.
The state General Assembly recently expanded Opportunity Scholarships to thousands of additional North Carolina families through bipartisan COVID-19 relief legislation. The expansion eliminated the cap on the amount of new awards that may be distributed to students entering kindergarten and the 1st grade and set new income eligibility guidelines that allow thousands more families to qualify for the scholarships’ education access.
Under the new guidelines, a family of four earning up to $72,000 would qualify for the scholarships beginning in 2021.
Speaker Moore and Senator Berger released a joint statement: “Lawmakers are taking action to protect education access for all North Carolina families during this pandemic,” they said.”It is becoming harder and harder for families to find schools they can enroll in to meet the needs of their children and eliminating Opportunity Scholarships would remove yet another option for families.”
“School choice shouldn’t be just an option for rich families who can supplement online learning. Low- and moderate-income children deserve the same access to educational opportunities as their well-off peers.”
“The legislature just took bipartisan action to expand the program for families who are in crisis, and we will defend this vital program for young North Carolina students.”