From Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC):
Within months of the program,
participants are seeing early academic gains
Concord, NC – More than 200 parents, school leaders, students and elected officials from six local counties gave witness Thursday to the early academic and social gains their children have experienced since participating in the North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship Program.
Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC) sponsored the event because the organization believes it’s important for policymakers to hear from parents.
“Those of us in the public policy arena can debate the issue all day,” said PEFNC President Darrell Allison. “However, the direct impact of the Opportunity Scholarship Program is felt by families and school leaders, who now thanks to the program, can send their children to schools of choice and also have a chance to serve even more diverse children in their communities. It is their stories that truly matter.”
An estimated 80 families and 18 school leaders from Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Union, Iredell, Rowan and Gaston counties were represented at the event. More than 25 percent of all Opportunity Scholarship participants come from these six counties.
“When you put these children in a loving environment where they know they are loved, they will do their best,” said Anne Wooten, school administrator for Crossroads Christian Academy in Statesville. One-fifth of her students are enrolled in the Opportunity Scholarship Program. “They will rise to the occasion.”
Wooten continued, “My prayer is that all students are able to learn in an environment that works for them.”
The Opportunity Scholarship Program withstood legal challenges earlier this year that threatened to close the program. However, the expedited case is in the state Supreme Court pending a final decision. The decision has come as a welcome, but cautious relief, to families who applied for, were accepted and enrolled their children in schools of choice.
“This program has been an absolute blessing for us,” said Lisa Smothers, whose four children attend Tabernacle Christian School in Monroe. “Two of my children were in public school dealing with bomb threats and bullying, which made it difficult to go to school every day and feel safe. Now, nothing makes me happier than seeing my children smiling and literally jumping up and down when I pick them up from school.
“To the legislators, thank you for helping my children smile again and love learning again,” Smothers continued. “I thank you not just for my children but for all children.”
The Opportunity Scholarship Program, passed in July 2013, creates grants of up to $4,200 for low-income and working-class families to attend a private school. To qualify, a child must be currently enrolled in a North Carolina public school and reside in a household that qualifies for federal Free and Reduced Lunch (about $44,000 for a family of 4).