By Tim Montgomery
In 2011, our North Carolina legislature boldly approved two programs to offer low- and middle-income families, as well as parents of students with learning disorders, options for seeing that the educational needs of their children were being met. Originally these programs provided a tax credit for the parents; however, in January of 2014 the programs were changed to provide a reimbursement to the family. For families that qualify, the state provides funding to assist the parents in moving their students to a private school environment that better meets their needs. The new two-year budget approved by our state legislature earlier this fall not only kept these programs in place, but it increased funding for both. Below is a brief description of both programs.
The Opportunity Education Grant is made available for families who would fall into the income bracket that would qualify them for free/reduced lunch. This is a lottery program, but the chances of being selected to receive this grant are quite good. This grant allows parents to apply for up to $4200 in tuition assistance if they feel the need to move their child from public to private school. The parents can choose to make this move for a number of reasons: the quality of education their child is receiving, to avoid a situation where their child is being bullied, to receive a faith-based education, or simply to level the playing field for parents who could never afford a private school education for their children on their own. I am happy to say that the new 2015-2017 budget approved by our legislature increases the funding in this program to $17.4 million for 2015-2016 and $24.8 million in 2016-2017! This is an increase of nearly 500% over what is now available for applicants!
The Children with Disabilities Grant, for students who have been in public school and served under an IEP for at least one semester, and who need to move to a school like The Piedmont School in order to have their academic and social needs met, has remained at $6000 per year. The continuation of this funding will allow many more parents in our area the opportunity to seriously consider a wonderful school like The Piedmont School for their children. The funding for this program has been increased by $250,000 for the upcoming year.
The increase in funding for these two wonderful programs is truly a victory for the families of school children in North Carolina, and the hard work of our state legislature should be applauded. A special thank-you to Representative Paul Stam and his colleagues for their commitment to the school children of North Carolina, and to Darrell Allison and the good folks at Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina for their tireless efforts. For more information on these grants and how to apply, you may visit the state information website at ncseaa.edu, or contact me at The Piedmont School by calling (336) 883-0992, or by e-mail at email@example.com.