This week was School Choice Week, a nationwide event dreamed up by a nonprofit whose stated mission is to “advance positive school choice messaging across the nation.”
Joining in North Carolina’s celebration was a jubilant Senator Phil Berger, still grinning about how his stolen supermajority this past session ensured Governor Cooper couldn’t veto terrible Republican policies. Another featured speaker at the event was State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt.
The party on Halifax Mall revolved around recent changes in school voucher law in North Carolina. Those changes include tripling existing funding of vouchers which primarily go to private religious schools as well as the elimination of eligibility requirements for voucher recipients.
Prior to the change in law, vouchers were only available for families who demonstrated financial need and whose children had attended public schools or were entering K, 1st or 2nd grade. The new law allows anyone to receive voucher money regardless of their family’s income and regardless of where they’ve gone to school.
That means taxpayers are now forced to subsidize private school tuition for North Carolina’s wealthiest families, even those who have never considered sending their children to traditional public schools and never would.
The private schools that NC taxpayers are supporting are legally able to discriminate against children. Many of them refuse admission to non-Christians or LGBTQ+ individuals.
A lot of the voucher-receiving schools also refuse to accept students with learning disabilities.
The massive increase in school voucher funding means that, by the year 2031, North Carolina will be diverting more than a half billion dollars a year to vouchers.
That’s funding our crumbling traditional public schools sorely need.
According to North Carolina’s Office for State Budget and Management, the changes in voucher law could drain 8% of public school funding if just half of the new vouchers go to students who currently attend public schools.
What kind of education leader would celebrate the schools that the vast majority of our students attend losing funding at a time when those schools are struggling mightly after a decade plus of Republican policies?
The answer to that question is State Superintendent Catherine Truitt.
But it didn’t used to be.
In 2020, when she was running against then-Representative Craig Horn in the primary for superintendent, Truitt promised that she would oppose any attempts by state legislators to expand funding of school vouchers.
Fast forward to the present.
Now Truitt is superintendent, running for reelection in a party whose bosses can decide whether they want to help fund her campaign.
Truitt did not utter a protest peep this summer when expansion of voucher funding was in draft form. And now she’s out there pounding metaphorical coffin nails into traditional public schools with Senator Phil Berger, the man who has ironclad control of the Republican machine in North Carolina.
North Carolina schools need a leader who will fight for our needs, not a flip flopper who cheers our demise. Not someone who celebrates discrimination against children or helps move our education system toward privatization of a human right.
In other words, in 2024 we need to elect a new State Superintendent of Public Instruction.