Just found this in the budget. Looks like the plan is to dramatically increase vouchers for private school over the next decade. pic.twitter.com/mTFUITob0u— Sen. Jeff Jackson (@JeffJacksonNC) May 11, 2017
Jeff Jackson is a Democratic senator in North Carolina whose fifteen minutes came in 2015 when he was the only legislator to show up for work on a snow day.
What he "just found" was not really a secret. Back in February, reporters were noting that the GOP legislature was planning to triple voucher money (NC calls them "opportunity scholarships" as in "the opportunity for people to make a ton of money pretending to educate students") from $45 million to $145 million.
The proposed increase is just one more point of contention between the new Democratic governor and the GOP's straight-out-of-the-19th-century legislature. Debate has highlighted some of the standard pro-voucher arguments that we can all expect to be hearing.
Expect, for instance, to hear about the 2002 Supreme Court ruling on Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, the case that found that voucher money going to private religious schools could be okee-dokee. That's good news in North Carolina, where over 90% of voucher money goes to private religious schools.
Expect, also, to hear voucher fans find new and fun ways to wiggle around the accountability issue. North Carolina charters are completely unaccountable to anyone. You'll be glad to now their students do have to take standardized tests kind of like the ones that public school students take-- they just don't have to report the results publicly. Here's an explanation from UNC-Chapel Hill professor Eric Houck on the governor's claim that voucher schools have no accountability:
"Accountability is a big word," Houck said. "If the governor is talking about accountability in the way that the General Assembly has been talking about accountability since the 1980s, he's right. But there are other ways of defining accountability."
So, big words can mean many different things. Right.
While all of that may seem a little fuzzy, one thing is clear-- unless someone derails the GOP budget, voucher schools in North Carolina are about to enter a decades's long Christmas, with an ever-growing gift of taxpayer money coming their way. Public schools? As always, North Carolina's GOP remains committed to making public schools go away as anything but a holding pen for Those People's Children.