Senate Leader slams hypocrisy of N&O op-ed author on Opportunity Scholarships
Former legislator pens response to N&O editor
In a statement, Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden) called out an op-ed written by Ned Barnett for the News and Observer which Berger characterized as trying to “kill Opportunity Scholarships.”
“News & Observer columnist Ned Barnett attended Archbishop Carroll High School, a private religious school in Pennsylvania. With tuition and fees, attendance at the school costs nearly $10,000 per year,” the statement reads.
Berger’s statement continued, “Yet in an opinion column published yesterday, Mr. Barnett advocated killing Opportunity Scholarships, a state-funded school freedom program that provides grants to lower-income children so they, too, can attend private school if they wish.”
Quoted in the statement is Sen. Deanna Ballard (R-Watauga), co-chair of the Senate Education Committee.
“The hypocrisy and elitism on display is stunning. A man who had the privilege of attending a private religious high school is using his position, which his education helped him attain, to deny desperate parents the same privilege for their children,” said Ballard."
“All children, not just the select few like Mr. Barnett, deserve the freedom to attend a school that best fits their needs,” Ballard said. “Opportunity Scholarships level the playing field by allowing all families, not just those with means, to access a private education.”
The Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) has been increasingly popular since its inception in 2013.
Opportunity Scholarships offer students $4,200 a year which can be used for tuition at participating private schools. Legislation that was successfully passed and signed by the governor this year will bump the amount up to $5,900 in 2022.
Contrary to some reporting, the OSP does not siphon money from the state’s education budget. The OSP has its own, separate funding managed by the NC State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA).
The program support low-income students. In order to be eligible, families are required to have a household income below 175% of the free and reduced lunch threshold. For a family of four, that translated to a household income of around $85,000 per year.
Former House Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam was the lawmaker who spearheaded the 2013 legislation creating the OSP and has been a proponent of school choice in general. Stam fired off a letter to the News and Observer editors over Barnett’s column, which this reporter has obtained. The full letter is below.