In the coming months, North Carolina parents will have the opportunity to learn more about how state-level Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) can help provide their children with more individualized educational options. Policy experts and other school choice proponents are launching a series of town hall discussions across the state focused on the important role ESAs can play in affording more students the opportunity to receive the best, most appropriate education for their individual needs. The first town hall meeting will be held on November 10 at 7 PM in Charlotte, and is entitled “Fulfilling the Promise: Empowering Parents Through School Choice.” Attendees will hear from Dr. Bart Danielsen, professor at NC State University, Jonathan Butcher of the Goldwater Institute, and Dr. Robert Luebke, educational analyst for the Civitas Institute. Registration, which can be completed through the link above, is required for the free event.
In recent years, North Carolina has made notable progress in expanding opportunities for students through charter schools and educational scholarships for qualified lower-income and disabled students, however, a specific recommendation for a state-level ESA has not yet come before the State Legislature. Through an ESA program, parents would receive a percentage of the per-pupil allotment that would ordinarily be allocated to a public school for that child’s education. These funds would follow the child to a non-public school, such as a private school, home school or other option and could be used for a variety of educational services and products like tuition, online learning, textbooks, home school curricula, individual public school courses, and educational therapies. Under some plans, these funds can roll over from year-to-year and eventually roll into college savings accounts.
Proponents point to successful programs in five states, including Florida and Arizona, as prime examples of how ESAs restore opportunity for all students and give hope to more families and communities. Far too often, though, children are denied a sound basic education. In North Carolina, for instance:
- Only 43 percent of students are deemed grade level proficient in both mathematics and reading.
- Only 34 percent of students in grades 3 through 8 demonstrate college and career readiness.
- 28 percent of all traditional public schools in NC (640 schools) are graded “D” or “F.”
According to a July poll, 58 percent of all registered voters in North Carolina are supportive of ESAs, while an August poll found that 71 percent of unaffiliated voters in the State support the idea of ESAs. Organizers plan to use the discussions to demonstrate how ESAs empower parents, save money, address student needs, and spur educational innovation.
For more information about the benefits of school choice programs, see our previous magazine articles, “School Choice” and “Expanding School Choice.” Watch ncfamily.org for more details on additional town halls in other cities across North Carolina in the coming months.
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