With North Carolina’s Republican state legislators poised to massively expand public funding for school vouchers, a new analysis of school enrollment vs. current voucher spending finds that private schools may be fraudulently claiming millions of dollars in vouchers for students they don’t have.
Charlotte-area Representative Tricia Cotham’s recent betrayal of her constituents by switching parties just months after being elected handed a supermajority to the NC GOP and effectively ended Governor Cooper’s ability to veto bad legislation.
Cotham and her school-privatizing colleagues then filed a bill which will increase funding for vouchers by hundreds of millions of dollars a year as well as eliminating income eligibility requirements, meaning taxpayers will now subsidize the private school tuition of wealthy families whose children already attend private schools.
You’d think that North Carolina’s Republican leadership would want taxpayers to know whether they’re getting a good return on investment for all those billions of dollars that will now be flowing into private schools instead of public schools. After all, we’re talking about the self-styled party of fiscal responsibility, right?
But NC’s “Opportunity Scholarship” voucher system is the least accountable in the nation, requiring no tests to measure student learning outcomes. We have no way of knowing whether all that money is actually helping children.
As if this complete lack of accountability isn’t bad enough, senior policy analyst Kris Nordstrom of the NC Justice Center has unearthed some troubling new evidence which indicates our voucher system may also be rife with fraud.
Nordstrom compared enrollment numbers with voucher claims and found multiple cases where private schools claimed more vouchers than they had students, and even some cases where private schools accepted voucher payments from the state after the schools had closed.
Credit: Kris Nordstrom, NC Justice Center
The data shows at least $2.3 million in fraudulent payments, but it’s possible the real number is much higher. That’s because hundreds of vouchers have been paid out to schools that don’t even report enrollment.
Our General Assembly needs to pump the brakes on voucher expansion and focus on improving Opportunity Scholarship’s accountability–both in tracking how taxpayer money is doled out and in objectively measuring the impact of vouchers on student learning outcomes. North Carolina deserves nothing less.