GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – “Choose Your School, Choose Your Future” is the name of North Carolina Senate Bill 406, a bill that aims to expand the state’s Opportunity Scholarship Program.

The bill’s goal is to offer more North Carolina students a wider range of school options by changing the eligibility requirements for the Opportunity Scholarship Program.

“Wealthier families in North Carolina have always had parental school choice,” John Locke Foundation Senior Political Analyst Mitch Kokai said. “The Opportunity Scholarship Program has enabled more families to make that same decision. Families who wouldn’t have the means to pay for an entire private school education by themselves can take advantage of one of the scholarships.”

Senate Bill 406 would remove the income eligibility requirements from the program. A program once intended for low-to-moderate-income students is now available to all. The bill would award scholarships on a sliding scale with priority given to low-income students.

Some say the Opportunity Scholarships have not been used as intended.

“It started off for low-to-moderate-income, minorities, to have an opportunity of going to another school if they wanted to,” NC Senator Kandie Smith of District 5 said. “All of that has changed because it’s ‘Choose Your School, Choose Your Future. So, I guess what we’re saying is to the children that attend public school, you do not have a choice where you attend school, so you don’t have the ability to choose your future.”

Those supporting the bill say it brings power to the parents.

In a press release, NC Senator Amy Galey of District 25 stated in part: “Education funds should follow the student, and we must fund students not systems. Expanding Opportunity Scholarships encourages school choice and broadens the options available to families.”

Some officials worry that school choice bills could hurt public schools. NC House Representative Gloristine Brown of District 8 said House Bill 823, the counterpart of Senate Bill 406, could lower attendance numbers in public schools.

“I don’t have a problem with people choosing, but when you’re using public dollars, you’re taking away from public schools. And are these schools that these dollars, these public dollars, are they being held accountable just like our public schools are,” Brown said.

Others think the bill could encourage public schools to be more competitive.

“Most students are going to remain in the traditional public schools, but the traditional public schools do have to do a better job of competing to keep those students, and that’s a win-win for everyone because it means the traditional public schools will have to think of new ways to keep students there who might be thinking about taking this opportunity scholarship option,” Kokai said.

To see Senate Bill 406, click here.

To see House Bill 823, click here.