News: K-12 Update

Top athletes back Opportunity Scholarship program

Panthers' Davis, Clippers' Paul appear in ad campaign urging parents to apply for scholarships

Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis speaks to families about the state's Opportunity Scholarship Program. (Photo courtesy of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina)
Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis speaks to families about the state's Opportunity Scholarship Program. (Photo courtesy of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina)

RALEIGH — Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis has teamed up with advocates of school choice to raise awareness for North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship program.

The 33 year-old NFL star this week appeared in an ad from Parents for Education Freedom in North Carolina, a nonprofit group that backs school choice, to promote the state’s private school voucher program.

“I love North Carolina, and those who call it home, so it was exciting for me to learn that parents like you can enroll their children in private school, thanks to the Opportunity Scholarship program,” Davis says in the ad.

The campaign kicks-off enrollment for families who want to take advantage of the scholarships, PEFNC spokesman Brian Jodice said.

Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul, a Winston-Salem native who attended both public and private schools, also has joined PEFNC’s ad campaign.

Paul was a star point guard for Wake Forest University.

“This is not a program that has been around for a long time, so there’s still very much an awareness campaign that needs to happen. That’s what we’re doing,” Jodice said.

Opportunity Scholarships grant up to $4,200 to low-income families who want to send a child to private school. The program — operational since 2015 — is under fire from Gov. Roy Cooper, who says he will not fund school vouchers in his 2017-18 budget.

Public support from figures such a Davis and Paul is critical to informing families of school choice programs benefitting kids, Jodice said.

The Opportunity Scholarship enrollment period began this week and already has seen more than 1,000 applicants begin the process.

PEFNC last year conducted a survey showing 64 percent of African-American voters support state-funded scholarships. It will take time to expand awareness of Opportunity Scholarships, Jodice said.

“This is good timing [for the ads] with the sense that the Super Bowl is coming up. A lot of folks focus on football,” Jodice said. “We’re thrilled to have Davis and Paul. And here’s the thing, these guys want to be a part of this campaign — because they’ve seen the power of school choice in their lives.”

Follow this link to learn more about North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarships.