North Carolina parents should be wary of 'school choice' bill
Politicians in Raleigh want to transform our freedoms with House Bill 420, giving state bureaucrats more control over North Carolinians' educational options, consequently driving up prices, reducing quality and innovation, and normalizing state welfare checks for the middle class and wealthy — all in the name of "school choice." But the fact is, North Carolina already has robust educational choices, and families are enthusiastically enjoying those opportunities. According to a 2022 report from BESTNC.com, approximately 16 percent of North Carolina families homeschool or attend private school. Families already have school choice, and this freedom allows for extraordinary educational innovation and entrepreneurship at a net gain to taxpayers.
For the 280,000 students and their families who have opted out of public education, H.B. 420 will allow them to collect state welfare checks twice a year to pay for eligible expenses. Further, language in H.B. 420 will require schools that are currently independent to comply with accreditation agencies to receive those funds, which, in turn, requires unnecessary mandated government and woke accreditation agency oversight. The consequences are significant: increased costs to manage and maintain the schools, potentially forced woke ideological indoctrination, and reduced quality of education due to a client shift — the government, not the families. With shekels come shackles.
You may have noticed that after the federal government flooded our economy with money, the price of every good and service increased significantly. Consider specifically how rising college tuition costs have priced many families out of secondary education; interestingly, despite generous government handouts, college remains unaffordable and unattainable for many. When the government disrupts a market by throwing money into it, the natural outcome is higher prices and lower quality.
I predict that this will happen with K–12 education in North Carolina should H.B. 420 pass in its current form. Private educational savings accounts (ESAs) aren't a new idea. Indiana has led the way in school choice for more than a decade. Yet a recent study out of Indiana "did not find statistical evidence that voucher students experience an improvement in their average achievement after baseline the longer they are enrolled in a private school. One might expect that students and their private schools would adjust to better meet the educational needs of voucher students. Collectively, this does not appear to be the case." In other words, the lackluster results of Indiana's voucher program, consisting of publicly funded ESAs, demonstrate no statistical improvement in educational outcomes.
Solutions abound. Immediate options for private funding are available; such as academic and athletic scholarships for underserved students attending private schools, educational scholarships from non-profits such as the Homeschool Foundation, which provides resources to those in poverty who choose to homeschool; and scholarships contributed through the community by way of churches and civic groups. North Carolina families are innovative and benevolent; therefore, our families do not require government handouts, nor do they require heavy-handed regulation.
North Carolina is considered one of the best states in the country for educational freedom, and our citizens are freely exercising their inalienable rights. As a Christian and a conservative, I know that H.B. 420 is wrong for North Carolina because it will drive up prices, reduce quality and innovation, and normalize welfare for the middle class and the rich. Too much money is being spent to provide the freedom that is already ours; that money should stay with the family. Though well intentioned and honorable, H.B. 420 is the height of welfare and big government, as there is no such thing as truly free money from the government. Perhaps our legislators should champion our citizens in keeping more of the money they earn instead of redistributing it.
Robert Bortins is the CEO of Classical Conversations®. The company has grown from supporting homeschoolers in about 40 states to supporting homeschoolers in over 50 countries and has become the world's largest classical homeschooling organization under his guidance.
Image: Brian J. Matis.