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N.C. bill would OK low-income scholarships
Corporations get tax break for awards
 
Published Monday, June 11, 2012 1:23 pm
by Herbert L. White

A bill before the N.C. House would allow corporations to give private-school scholarships to low-income students in return for tax breaks.

The North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship program would be similar to those in eight other states. The bill has not been debated in the General Assembly, but has bipartisan support.

“We need programs like this to help parents like us provide the quality education each of us wants for our children,” said Mary Russell of Jarvisburg, N.C., who has two children in public schools and supports the legislation. “A paycheck should not determine whether your child is in a classroom that truly helps them learn or not.”

More than 336,000 low-income students failed end of grade tests in the 2010-11 academic year, according to the N.C. Department of Instruction. In 29 school districts, the achievement gap for poor children on end of grade testing is above the state average of 29.5 percent.

Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, said support for academic scholarships for low-income is growing, noting that participation outstripped organizers’ expectations at a rally last week at the Capitol.

“We initially sough out to have 200 people join us today, but in a matter of two weeks, a couple of hundred turned into more than 1,200 parents and children representing hundreds of thousands of families across our state,” he said. “This turnout shows the critical demand for a program that can help families obtain a quality education and help close our state’s socioeconomic achievement gap.”

Civil rights and education activists counter that the bill would strip support and funding from public schools by rewarding corporations to give scholarships to private schools.

“Our General Assembly leadership should be focusing on the promises of our Constitution, guaranteeing every child in North Carolina a high-quality, constitutional, well-funded, diverse public education,” said Rev. William Barber, president of the N.C. NAACP. “Instead the current leadership continues to show a premediated disdain for public education. In less than one term, they have massively defunded public education and driven North Carolina almost to the bottom.”

 

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