UPDATED :: FEBRUARY 14, 2011
NC SCHOOL LEADERS SAY TUITION TAX CREDITS WOULD UNDERMINE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
House Bill 41, which would provide tuition tax credits to parents who pull their children out of public schools to enroll them in private school or home school, would have a devastating impact on North Carolina's public schools and do little to improve educational opportunities for most families in the state, according to State Board of Education Chairman Bill Harrison and State Superintendent June Atkinson.
The bill, which passed first reading in the House on Monday, would provide tax credits or vouchers of $2,500 per child for families with household income below $100,000. Harrison, a former teacher and local school superintendent, said the bill would provide public support to private schools that function without public oversight or accountability. The annual tuition for private K-12 schools can range from approximately $5,000 to $19,000 a year depending on the school. This is a significant cost for many North Carolina families since the median household income is approximately $44,000 annually.
Public schools, in contrast, fund students at approximately $8,450 per student, and families do not pay tuition to attend.
"This move to pull support from public schools has the potential to create a taxpayer supported system of private schools and another system for everyone else," said Atkinson. "I don't believe North Carolinians want to undermine their schools. I believe North Carolinians want to support their public schools to make them stronger."
"Tax credits for private schools violate the guiding principles of the State Board of Education," said Harrison. "Our focus is on success for all students and on having a transparent operation with strong accountability for taxpayer resources. This would take away from that and create even larger disparities in education without giving most families additional choices."
The State Board of Education is on record for supporting a variety of public school choice options, including charter schools, magnet schools, special themed schools, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) schools, early colleges and virtual learning.
Tax credit and school voucher programs pull from existing public school funding sources in order to support private school options. Voucher programs tried in other places have not been shown to improve academic performance, according to studies performed by the US Department of Education under President George W. Bush. Also, the use of vouchers in locations such as Milwaukee, one of the nation's longest-running private school voucher programs, failed to show any improvement in overall academic performance or in public school achievement because of the competition between public and private schools, according to an eight-year study of the program.
About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 160 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.
For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.