Updated: Feb 14, 2021
Low-income students’ dream of getting a high-quality education may soon become a reality.
Republicans on Thursday introduced House Bill 32, Equity in Opportunity Act, to expand the state’s Opportunity Scholarship program. The bill would put options like private school, home schooling, and micro-schools within reach for the first time for many. The bill would also simplify scholarship programs for special needs students, and would provide an outreach program to simplify the registration process.
The bill proposal coincides with Education First Alliance’s “equality of dignity and of opportunity in K-12 education” campaign, which called on the North Carolina’s General Assembly to directly assist low-income families pay for high-quality schooling, and to provide communities with a targeted assistance program to make registering for grants and schools easier.
Education First Alliance is a group operating in North Carolina with a mission is to help middle & low- income families in North Carolina easily access the best educational options for their children.
In 2021, the group aims to rescue 500 children from failing public schools across the state.
“Our students need to be able to compete, especially in my community,” says Education First Alliance’s Dannielle Nicole Robinson. “Education has been instrumental in lifting children out of poverty, keeping them out of the circle of criminal activity and unnecessary involvement with the criminal justice system.”
“Public schools now are focused on teaching things like exploratory gender studies and critical race theory which is not a positive,” says Robinson. “Minority children are being encouraged to be angry at someone else, white students are being made to think less of themselves due to radical agendas, but all children are missing the esteem and educational components they need to be receiving in school.”
Protracted public school shutdowns brought on by the pandemic, have seen students’ grades plummet. In Wake County, about 25% of middle and high school students failed at least one class during remote learning, according to district statistics. It’s the same story in Mecklenburg, Guilford, and Cumberland and other districts throughout the state.
Studies indicate that black, Hispanic, and low-income students have been hardest-hit from a lack the personal instruction and peer socialization that open schools offer. A recent analysis from Northwest Evaluation Association surveyed 4.4 million student test scores and showed that most children in this category fell far behind their similarly-situated peers in math and reading. Black, Hispanic, and low-income students in the study saw an acceleration of educational disparities, setting children who were already lagging behind their white and more affluent peers even further behind.
“Our children are suffering. Our educators are working hard, but the very nature of remote learning has wreaked havoc with our kids,” acknowledged Rep. Dean Arp, R-Union, said. “At its core, Opportunity Scholarships are intended to provide low-wealth families with opportunities that are not readily available to them otherwise.”
Senator Phil Berger: “The damage that’s being done to children, both from the standpoint of educational attainment, but also in other areas we’re seeing indications that suicides are up, and mental health issues are up.”
The proposed bill would remove the current scholarship $4,200 limit and would allow for Opportunity Scholarships to pay out the same funding the state sets aside per pupil.
“We had an artificial cap on the number of students who could participate in this, and that left money in the system,” Rep. Arp said Thursday. “Removing those artificial caps will certainly free up the money, especially in this COVID situation. We believe that even more people will choose to seek the Opportunity Scholarships for their kids.”
Importantly under the bill, nonprofits like Education First Alliance can continue to offer outreach programs to families that make accessing these programs simple. Working closely with established charter, private, and micro-schools, our team will streamline the application processes for families so we can reach our goal of lifting 500 students from failing public schools in 2021.