North Carolina is on a roll. Last week, Governor Pat McCrory (R) signed a budget passed by the state legislature chock-full of education reforms, including a new school choice option for children from low- and middle-income families.
The new budget includes:
- Scholarships for children from low- and middle-income families. The Opportunity Scholarship Act will give students from low- and middle-income families and foster care the opportunity to receive $4,200 scholarships to attend private schools of their choice.
- A–F school grading. A transparent school grading formula on an A–F scale based on student achievement and growth will start the 2013–2014 school year. It will also grade high schools on graduation rates and enrollment in accelerated coursework.
- Teacher contract and dismissal language. The budget replaces existing tenure rules with renewable two-year contracts. Top-performing teachers will be offered four-year contracts.
- Phase-out of certain teacher salary supplements and move toward merit-based pay. Teachers and instructional personnel will no longer be paid based on paper credentials such as master’s degrees. The state will also move toward a merit-based teacher compensation plan, which will evaluate teachers based on student performance and growth.
- Teach for America expansion. Additional funding will be given to Teach for America to expand the size and scope of the program. Total funding will be $6 million.
The move for school choice and accountability in North Carolina could prove transformational. Families that currently do not have a choice in where their children attend school will soon have options. And a combination of teacher tenure reforms and transparency could effect significant improvements in the public education system.
Furthermore, a corresponding Children with Disabilities Act will grant families with special-needs children a chance to receive scholarships of $6,000 toward private school tuition or other education services that meet their unique learning needs.
“This budget allocation for opportunity scholarship is a giant step for giving North Carolina families true educational freedom,” said Dallas Woodhouse, state director for Americans for Prosperity in North Carolina. “Other states, such as Indiana, Louisiana, and Oklahoma, have made real advances in school choice in the past two years, and it’s good to see that North Carolina is catching up.”
America is facing an educational fork in the road: one path leads toward educational opportunity through school choice; the other maintains the status quo of government-assigned schools and further centralization through efforts such as the Common Core national standards. North Carolina’s actions over the past month show that it is choosing the path toward educational freedom and choice, which will no doubt be to the benefit of teachers, taxpayers, and—most importantly—children.