While there are a number of areas of disagreement between the state House and Senate regarding adjustments to the biennial budget, the two sides do seem to be in agreement on one major item — clearing the waitlist for Opportunity Scholarships, commonly known as school vouchers.

Despite being a major additional expenditure of more than $450 million, the two chambers appear to be in agreement that this is a worthwhile use of public money. State courts ruled that every North Carolina child is due a “sound, basic education,” and there seems to be a lot of agreement among legislators that the best way to achieve this is by providing funding to parents for the school of their choice, whether public or private.

Of course, not everybody believes this is a good idea, especially those who cannot think beyond the government-run, one-size-fits-all system. To many of them, all education funding (even additional funding that doesn’t impact public-school budgets) belongs to the public schools.

One public school teacher opposed to North Carolina’s voucher program, shown in the X post below, went as far as to say that “state-funded private schools” are nothing but “white Christian nationalism indoctrination centers.”

But most people who are familiar with private schools know they come in many shapes and sizes — classical school, prep school, Catholic school, boarding school, Montessori, Waldorf, language immersion, STEM, and on and on. Very few of them would match the description he gave of a sort of Hitler Youth camp. But I’m sure he knows this and is just panicking as the education paradigm is rapidly shifting away from what he’d prefer. Change can be scary.

Our former US Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, recently gave a much more accurate view of school choice at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. You can watch her speak briefly in the clip below about how people of means have always had school choice.

And is this not the case? People have frequently pointed out that many of the politicians who most loudly oppose private-school vouchers themselves sent children to private school. Democrat governor of North Carolina Roy Cooper is just one prominent example.

But, historically, the additional options haven’t just been about the rich and powerful choosing private schools. There are other tools of choice, like simply moving to a place with a nicer school system. This is another way lower-income students are left behind in failing schools. It costs a lot of money to pick up and move, and there aren’t as many affordable housing options in better school districts.

My own experience in Northern Virginia public schools testifies to this. We lived in Fairfax County at first, but the public schools we were assigned to were considered particularly bad, both on safety and performance. After attending these for a short while, my family decided to move to the other side of the 7-Corners intersection into Falls Church City, which had much better schools.

“Much better” is kind of an understatement. Looking at the current scores for the two schools shows how different the two bordering districts still are. At JEB Stuart High (now Justice High, after the Confederate general’s name became problematic), graduation rates are “well below state median.” But at George Mason High (now Meridian High, changed because Founding Father’s names are also now problematic), graduation rates are “well above state median.” Math, science, and reading are below state averages at Justice and well above average at Meridian (which is the second best school in the state for college readiness, according to US News and World Report).

This also leads to a separation by race and class, as Rice said often happens. Justice High School is 67% economically disadvantaged, with over 80% minority enrollment, while Meridian has 10% economically disadvantaged, with 36% minority enrollment (still higher than the state average, but not as high as other surrounding DC-area schools).

All that to say, just because someone is going to a public school doesn’t mean they haven’t benefited from school choice. My dad supported a family of six on a teacher’s salary, so we weren’t wealthy, per se. But middle class families choosing to live in one district over another are exercising a choice those of lower means often cannot. My wife’s family did the same thing here in North Carolina, moving from the Orange County part of Mebane to the Alamance County part of Mebane, literally a block away, just to have access to a school they preferred.

So in addition to vouchers for attending private schools, open enrollment is another school-choice policy that goes a long way in addressing this. Open enrollment erases these district lines and allows students in the area to enroll at the public school of their choice. By eliminating the need to move across town to a preferred district, the segregation by race and class inadvertently caused by traditional public school zoning is mitigated.

As Rice said, we’ve always had educational choice for those of means. All the school-choice movement is trying to do is provide those same choices to those who haven’t traditionally had them.