Advocates gathered in downtown Raleigh Jan. 24 to celebrate National School Choice Week during a year when universal school choice is coming to the Tar Heel State.

Held this year from Jan. 21-27, National School Choice Week is a nationwide celebration of diversity in educational options. There are a total of 27,112 school choice events planned across the 50 states for this week.

The event on Halifax Mall in Raleigh, sponsored by Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, included remarks from several key lawmakers who have been instrumental in bringing greater school choice to the state.

“During the last decade, the General Assembly has led the charge to implement and expand parental school choice across the state of North Carolina,” said Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham. “We are ensuring that every parent has an option when it comes to their child’s K-12 education.”

“Parents are best equipped to decide what is best for a child, because nobody cares and loves a child more than that child’s parents,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt, a Republican. “Being pro-school choice does not conflict with being pro-public schools.”

National School Choice Week is even more meaningful in 2024 since applications for the expanded Opportunity Scholarship Program are set to begin Feb. 1. Created in 2013, Opportunity Scholarships are meant to give all NC families the opportunity to choose a private school education for their child.

The program has grown from 1,216 students for the 2014-2015 school year to 32,170 students for the current school year. Today, around one-in-five students who attend a private school are on an Opportunity Scholarship.

The program was originally means-tested and targeted to lower-income and working-class families. But changes enacted in the new state budget expanded the program to all families, regardless of income, in a tiered system that still prioritizes the lowest earners first.

Gov. Roy Cooper — a longtime opponent of school choice — announced on Jan. 23 that 2024 would be “The Year of the Public Schools.” A press release from the governor’s office claims that GOP lawmakers are pushing policies to “undermine and politicize public education.” In May, Cooper declared a “state of emergency” over K-12 public education funding in the state.