With all races, parties supporting school choice, now is the time to act
Cheryl Caulfield swiveled behind her freshly minted name plate during a Wake County School Board work session. The new school board member who ran on improving learning loss, pulled the microphone close and asked why money earmarked to address COVID shut-down test scores wasn’t being used for tutoring. Caulfield was a “just a mom, not a politician” candidate who ran after seeing children struggle to catch up. She had also seen her friends struggle just as much to pay for tutoring. She continues to push the issue, but in the meantime frustrated parents are turning their heads towards alternative educational options.
A new statewide poll by N.C. Values Coalition and N.C. Faith & Freedom Coalition, conducted by Differentiators Data, found that across political and racial spectrums, North Carolina voters overwhelmingly support funding alternatives to public education. When asked if opportunity scholarships should be expanded to all parents allowing parents to send their children to private schools, 69% of respondents said yes. Black respondents agreed at 69%; 80% of Hispanics, 80% of Asians and 69% percent of white voters agreed. Predictably, Republican respondents had the highest approval rates for expansion, at 87%, but 55% of Democrats and 66% of unaffiliated voters also wanted Opportunity Scholarship expansion.
A majority of black voters gave support to equally funding charter and traditional public schools, at 51%, with Asian, Hispanic and white voters a couple points behind. Of unaffiliated voters, 47% wanted equally disbursed funding, and nearly 68% of Republicans wanted the same.
The school choice issue could be a winner for 2024 elections in North Carolina, especially considering the rapid uptick of unaffiliated voters, a coveted group which swings elections in this state. According to John Locke Foundation’s Director of Civitas Center for Public Integrity Andy Jackson, unaffiliated voters now have the largest share of registrations in the state, passing Republicans and Democrats over the past 10 years. And with the education-funding issue being so close to home, loyal Democrats may stray to school-choice Republican candidates.
Democrats in the NC General Assembly should take note, that 55% percent of Democrat respondents want to expand Opportunity Scholarships. Appeasing the liberal North Carolina Association for Educators (NCAE), and their agenda to shut down alternatives, could cost them votes.
It’s conventional knowledge COVID shutdowns revealed troublesome indoctrination in our schools, creating shock and jeers for more transparency along with pleas for help to address devastating learning loss. According to the recent poll, almost 81% of North Carolina voters want more transparency, along with 83% of unaffiliated, 68% of Democrat and 92% of Republican voters. The numbers were high across racial demographics with 72% of black, 85% of Hispanic, 90% of Asian and 83% of white voters calling for more transparency.
Leadership has indicated we will see a Parents Bill of Rights this session, and N.C. Values is pushing to include provisions for transparency, school choice, and to eliminate sexually explicit materials and instruction on gender and sexual identity. Voters are calling for transparency because of what they have witnessed being presented to their children. With abysmal test scores in North Carolina, parents want to see that their children are benefiting from a solid education and how curriculum is being presented. Some parents want a different path all together, unsure if the public school system will escape the clutches of ideologues who chant about equity but ignore the inequity learning loss has caused, as many can’t afford tutors.
It’s time for parents to take back their children’s education. Legislators and school boards across the state should reflect on these statewide poll results and be introspective about why such a broad base of voters want a way out of public education. A Parental Bill of Rights, allowing funds to follow the child for those who wish to leave, and accountability in schools for those who wish to stay gives true equity in education to all families.