Faith Perry is a second grader who lives in Wake Forest, N.C. She has struggled with reading comprehension since kindergarten, despite having attended summer school the last two summers. Faith’s mom, Cynthia, is understandably quite worried about the impact that this will have on Faith’s confidence and future academic prospects: “I don’t want her self-esteem to fall, I want her to do the very best she can.”
She wants to remove her daughter from what has become a vicious cycle of failure and place her in a private school. She believes that the smaller class sizes and one-on-one attention that Faith would receive will help Faith overcome the trouble she has had with reading comprehension. Yet, on Cynthia’s income, she just couldn’t afford it.
In 2013, North Carolina created the Opportunity Scholarship Program, which gave Cynthia the opportunity to send Faith to a private school. The program grants 2,400 scholarships of up to $4,200 to low-income families to send their children to the private school of their choice. To be eligible, a family of four must earn less than $44,000 a year, which means the scholarship is equal to nearly 10 percent of their income. This gives the children of low-income families an opportunity which their wealthier peers have always enjoyed – the opportunity to move away from poorly performing public schools and into an educational environment that better suits their needs.
Cynthia applied for an Opportunity Scholarship and was ready to send Faith to a school where she felt Faith could be successful. Unfortunately, the North Carolina Association of Educators, the North Carolina School Boards Association and 40 local school boards have brought a lawsuit challenging this program. The teacher’s association and school boards fear that once parents like Cynthia get a chance to choose their own children’s school, the low performing public schools will no longer have a captive clientele who are forced to accept the inadequate education offered there.
Their lawsuit is threatening to force Faith to stay in her current school and continue to fail at reading comprehension, while she continues to fall behind her classmates and begins to lose her chance at an education that prepares her for a successful life. That is why the Institute for Justice is defending Cynthia’s right to choose the school she believes is right for her daughter.
Evidence supports Cynthia’s decision that sending Faith to a private school will be better for her. In 2011, Indiana enacted the broadest school choice program in the country: the Choice Scholarship Program. Every year since its inception, enrollment in the program has doubled, revealing the program’s success and the tremendous demand for choices. A study done by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice found that 90 percent of Indiana parents who moved their child from public school to private school were very satisfied with their decision.
North Carolina courts need to give Faith the chance to attend a school that better suits her needs by upholding the Opportunity Scholarship Program. Let’s restore our faith in a parent’s ability to choose what’s right for their child.
— Yitzy Muller
Yitzy Muller is a Maffucci Fellow at the Institute for Justice