Since 2014, WNCN reports that $342,048 worth of publicly-funded school vouchers have been funneled to private schools that are now closed.
The dollars — steered through the state’s Opportunity Scholarship voucher program since its 2014 inception — were intended to give low-income children a chance to attend the schools of their families’ choice.
Since its 2014 start, the program has paid $27.5 million in taxpayer funds to help families send children to private school. Of that total, $342,048 went to schools that are shuttered.
CBS North Carolina dug into the numbers. Here is a full list of the schools that received voucher money and closed in our area:
Upper Room Christian Academy closed its elementary school last spring, citing dropping enrollment and the rise of charter schools as factors that contributed to its closing.
Central Academy at Lake Park closed its doors at the end of last school year thanks to being unable to remain financially self-sustaining, according to a school representative.
Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam (R-Wake), who introduced a bill supporting the school voucher program, told WNCN that the closing of a private school isn’t an indicator of the voucher program’s worthiness, but rather is emblematic of privatea system that demonstrates quality control — if a school needs to shut down, it does, unlike public schools where that process could drag out for a long time.
But the accountability and transparency measures that are built into the school voucher program to ensure that private schools receiving tax dollars are high quality are weak as compared with those that public schools must abide by.
As I outlined last week, consider the following scenarios that apply to private schools receiving public dollars:
- Private schools receiving tax dollars don’t have to meet any generally accepted accreditation standards.
- Teachers don’t have to be licensed.
- Schools are free to deny admission to anyone, such as those who don’t declare their support for Jesus Christ or those who are LGBTQ.
- Schools don’t have to adhere to any sort of curricular standards and are free to use teaching materials that draw heavily on biblical teachings.
- A criminal background check is required only for the schools’ top administrator.
- A nationally-normed standardized test must be given to students yearly (and report those findings only if enrollment is more than 25 voucher students). The test doesn’t have to be the same, or comparable, to the tests administered in public schools.
- Only if a school receives more than $300,000 annually is it then required to conduct a financial review by a CPA (only three of the 330 schools met the criteria last year).
So while these recently-closed private schools may have shut down due to financial problems, it’s impossible to know if other factors were at play.
Did those private schools’ students have access to high quality and rigorous educational offerings? We can’t review data and make sound comparisons to public schools because there aren’t any requirements for the schools to use rigorous, high quality testing methods and make those results easily accessible to the public. Were there governance problems? There’s no requirement for public board meetings that would give us a sense of any management problems that may have arisen. Did discrimination take place at these schools? Very possibly yes — if students weren’t able to demonstrate their devotion to schools’ spiritual missions (70 percent of NC private schools are religious) then they wouldn’t be a candidate for admission.