A researcher from Duke University’s Children’s Law Clinic reviewed the first three years of North Carolina’s new school voucher program and found that the program’s accountability measures are among the weakest in the country.

“The schools need not be accredited, adhere to state curricular or graduation standards, employ licensed teachers, or administer state End-of-Grade tests,” according to the report “School Vouchers in North Carolina: The First Three Years.”

Other key findings, as stated in the report’s executive summary:

  • Based on limited and early data, more than half the students using vouchers are performing below average on nationally-standardized reading, language, and math tests. In contrast, similar public school students in NC are scoring above the national average.
  • Approximately 93% of the vouchers have been used to pay tuition at religious schools.
  • The North Carolina voucher program is well designed to promote parental choice, especially for parents who prefer religious education for their children. It is poorly designed, however, to promote better academic outcomes for children and is unlikely to do so.

The report provides a comprehensive look at the mechanics and history of the young school voucher program, which lawmakers enacted in 2013 to ostensibly provide families greater access to more educational choices outside of the traditional public school arena.

The school voucher program has been assailed for failing to implement guardrails against waste, fraud and abuse of tax dollars as well as failing to adopt basic curricular standards that ensure students are accessing high quality educational opportunities.

The Duke research, authored by the Children’s Law Clinic director and education researcher Jane Wettach, comes on the heels of a spate of national reports that conclude that school vouchers don’t boost students’ academic outcomes—and may even harm students. [For more on that, click here and here.]

Download Wettach’s report on North Carolina’s school voucher program here.

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