Last March, the Duke Children’s Law Clinic released their report on the North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship Program entitled ” School Vouchers in North Carolina: The First Three Years.” The report provides an academic and financial analysis of the program from its commencement.
As part of Policy Bridge’s new policy brief template project, our team connected with Jane Wettach, Director of the Children’s Law Clinic, to collaborate on compiling key points from the report into a policy brief.
A Few Key Takeaways from the Policy Brief:
- Accountability measures for North Carolina private schools receiving vouchers are limited and among the weakest in the country.
- Based on limited and early data, the majority of the students using vouchers are performing below average on nationally-standardized reading, language, and math tests.
- The North Carolina voucher program is well designed to promote parental choice, especially for parents who prefer religious education. It is poorly designed, however, to promote better academic outcomes for children and is unlikely to do so.
- Because private schools receiving vouchers are not required to administer state tests nor publish detailed achievement data, the public will be unable to develop valid conclusions about the success of the program.
- The state should consider amendments to the program that will improve both its accountability to the public and its potential for providing better education.
Policy Recommendations from the Law Clinic:
- Require all participating schools to offer a curriculum that is at least equivalent to the curriculum used in the North Carolina public schools: providing instruction in English language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, physical education, arts education, foreign languages, and technology skills. Alternatively, the state should design an accreditation system that holds schools to strong academic standards.
- Require all participating schools to set reasonable qualifications for teachers.
- Require that students receiving vouchers participate in the state End-of-Grade testing program, and that the schools receiving voucher support publicly report data in the same manner as is required of public schools.
- Require all participating schools to offer at least the same number of hours and days of education as are offered by the public schools.
- Require limited financial reviews of all schools, with more extensive reviews for schools receiving more than $50,000 in voucher support.
- Prohibit all forms of discrimination in schools accepting voucher support.
- Strengthen the oversight role of the SEAA and/or the Division of Non-Public Education such that schools that consistently fail to provide an adequate education are denied continued voucher payments.
The policy brief can be accessed below. To read the full report, please visit the Children’s Law Clinic website.