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Almost 2,300 more NC families get private-school vouchers as money runs out

Students listen during a phonics lesson at Trinity Episcopal School, one of the schools that takes Opportunity Scholarships.
Ann Doss Helms
Students listen during a phonics lesson at Trinity Episcopal School, one of the schools that takes Opportunity Scholarships.

North Carolina officials notified the families of almost 2,300 more students that they’ll get public money to cover private school tuition in August. But that shuts out approximately 56,000 students who applied for Opportunity Scholarships.

Demand for tuition assistance exploded after last summer’s vote to:

  • Remove income limits for Opportunity Scholarships, which were created in 2013 to provide low- to moderate-income families with alternatives to struggling public schools.
  • Open the program to students who were already enrolled in private schools without the aid.
  • Increase the amount available to each student, from a maximum of almost $6,500 for this school year to almost $7,500 next year.

Family income still determines priority for aid and the amount available to each student. The state had previously notified about 13,500 families in the lowest income tier that their children would receive the maximum scholarship for 2024-25. That tier tops out at just under $58,000 a year for a family of four.

There wasn’t enough money left to cover almost 19,000 applicants from the second tier, which tops out at a little over $115,000 for a family of four. So the state chose 2,294 by lottery and notified their families Friday. They’ll get up to $6,722 for tuition.


That leaves about 16,000 Tier 2 families and another 40,000 in higher-income tiers who won’t get scholarships — unless the General Assembly votes to add money in this year’s short session, which convened last week. House Speaker Tim Moore has proposed adding $300 million to cover all applicants, more than double the $191.5 million allotted for 2024-25. That amount is scheduled to increase yearly, topping $500 million a year in 2031.

Republicans, who have a veto-proof majority in the General Assembly, have generally supported expansion of the voucher program. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has called for a moratorium and urged lawmakers to instead spend more on public schools.

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.