Senators Introduce Bill Expanding Opportunity Scholarship Program

A single mother making less than $56,400 would qualify for an Opportunity Scholarship

71% of voters in North Carolina support Opportunity Scholarships

Raleigh, N.C. — Today, North Carolina State Senators filed legislation to expand the state’s popular Opportunity Scholarship program to include families making up to 175% of the federal reduced-price lunch level.

Senate Bill 671 is sponsored by Sens. Michael Lee (R-New Hanover) and Deanna Ballard (R-Watauga), who co-chair the Senate Education Committee.

Opportunity Scholarships provide working families the ability to send their children to a school that best fits their educational needs. The expansion will also increase the scholarship award amount from the current maximum of $4,200 annually to about $6,500 annually.

This bill empowers low-income parents to have a choice in where their child attends school. Under this bill, a single mother making less than $56,400 would be eligible to receive an Opportunity Scholarship for her child.

A recent statewide survey found that 71% of registered voters support the Opportunity Scholarship program, and 61% support increasing the scholarship amount.

Despite its popularity, Gov. Roy Cooper has continually tried to defund the program that provides scholarships to low- and middle-income families. Gov. Cooper understands the importance of parents having a say in their child’s education. After all, he sent one of his daughters to a private school in Raleigh that accepts Opportunity Scholarships.

The bill also merges the Special Education Scholarships for Students with Disabilities and Personal Education Savings Accounts into the Personal Education Student Accounts for Children with Disabilities.

“Last year public schools in North Carolina were shut down because of the pandemic, leaving many parents to scramble to find alternatives that would meet their child’s needs,” Sen. Lee said. “It’s clear that after a year of being forced into ‘virtual learning’ working-class families want a bigger say in their child’s education and Opportunity Scholarships can give them back their voice.”

Sen. Ballard said, “As we all know, students across North Carolina have experienced extreme learning loss over the past year. Instead of giving low- and middle-income families a choice, Gov. Cooper is withholding access to educational opportunities, ensuring that private education is only accessible to the wealthy. For all the talk about equity and fairness, ending the Opportunity Scholarship program would only hurt the students Gov. Cooper claims to care about the most.”

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