EDUCATION POLICY PERSPECTIVES: Senate budget's Section 11A.3's changes to Opportunity Scholarship Program would cost state millions

By Kris Nordstrom
Policy Analyst, Education & Law Project
June 2016

The Senate’s budget proposal makes changes to the Opportunity Scholarship voucher program which are expected to cost North Carolina citizens over $170 million over the next five fiscal years. Annual costs will continue to climb in subsequent years.

The Opportunity Scholarship Program contains no meaningful accountability measures, so it is unclear what benefit North Carolina’s citizens are receiving in exchange for these increased costs. Policymakers have no way to determine whether the changes proposed under Section 11A.3 of the proposal will hurt or harm educational delivery for North Carolina’s students.

What we know:

  • The changes proposed under Section 11A.3 are expected to cost North Carolina taxpayers over $170 million over the next five years, with costs increasing each year.
  • Voucher programs like the Opportunity Scholarship Program decrease funding to school districts based on the average cost per student. This figure includes fixed costs that can’t be reduced when the student leaves school, thereby putting additional financial strain on public schools.
  • 93% of Opportunity Scholarship funds in FY 15-16 went to Christian, Islamic and other faith-based schools that are allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion or sexual orientation, and which often rely on unqualified instructors and faith-based curricula.
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