An Open Letter from Bonnie Bechard & Mary Kolek, LWV-Lower Cape Fear
In our study “NC Private Schools Receiving Vouchers: A Study of the Curriculum”, the League of Women Voters of North Carolina found that more than three-fourths of schools receiving vouchers in North Carolina use a curriculum in the Sciences, History, Government, and Literature, that is not accepted by major universities and which educators criticize as lacking academic rigor and critical thinking.
Transparency and accountability for meeting curriculum standards and goals are required of public schools and the LWV-NC believes schools receiving vouchers should be held to the same standards. Otherwise, the state is not meeting its constitutional requirement to provide a sound education that prepares our children for college and careers in the 21st century.
The Children’s Law Clinic of Duke Law School released a study on the “Opportunity Scholarship Program” and concluded that “accountability measures for North Carolina private schools receiving vouchers are among the weakest in the country.” The LWV-NC is in concurrence with the Children’s Law Clinic recommendations for transparency and accountability and offers the following recommendations for the General Assembly to consider:
- Require schools to use the NC Course of Study Essential Goals and Standards or an equivalent curriculum approved by the state.
- The curriculum should be one that is accepted by any University and not limit the student in their choice of post-secondary education.
- Require the same qualifications for teachers as used in public schools.
- Require students receiving vouchers participate in the state End-of-Grade testing program
- Schools receiving voucher support publicly report data in the same manner as is required of public schools
- Require all participating schools to offer at least the same number of hours and days of education as are offered by public schools
- Prohibit all forms of discrimination in schools accepting voucher support
- Require limited financial reviews of all schools, with more extensive reviews for schools receiving more than $50,000 in voucher support
- Strengthen the oversight role of the NC State Education Assistance Authority and/or the Division of Non-Public Education such that schools that consistently fail to provide an adequate education are denied continued voucher payments.
The North Carolina Course of Study offers a core curriculum with standards and goals by grade and by discipline and whose primary goal is to prepare all students to become career and college ready. It is also a curriculum whose goals are to “develop young people who are knowledgeable, critical, and capable of making informed decisions about the world and their place in it.” “The second purpose is to prepare young people to participate actively and responsibly in a culturally diverse, democratic, and increasingly interdependent world.” We should ask no less of the schools receiving public vouchers.