RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s programs that spend tax dollars on scholarships for low-income students to attend private schools and for children with disabilities to receive special education would be altered in a measure approved by the state House.
By a 69-49 party-line vote, the chamber passed the Republican bill on Tuesday after revisiting arguments about whether the state should be paying for the costs of students to attend K-12 private or religious schools.
The Opportunity Scholarship Program, approved in 2013, currently provides $4,200 annually to children whose families don’t exceed certain income thresholds. The bill, which now heads to the Senate, would direct that in fall 2022 scholarship awards be equal to 70% of the average state per-pupil allocation to public schools, then increasing to 80% in 2023. The change is expected to increase the annual scholarship amount.
The measure in turn would combine the state’s two scholarship programs for children with disabilities to form new “Personal Education Student Accounts for Children with Disabilities.” Students with autism, hearing impairments or severe intellectual disabilities could receive up to $17,000 annually. Other students would receive amounts based on a formula.
The bill also would allow counties to offer supplemental payments of up to $1,000 per child toward K-12 scholarships.