Private Schools Emphasize Choice
Special Report - July 7, 2009
A new policy report from the John Locke Foundation shows that while most private schools in the state support expanded school choice options for North Carolinians, such as voucher programs or tuition tax credits, most express concern about any programs that expand the state’s control over private schools. The report, “Building a Case for School Choice: Initial Results from a Survey of North Carolina’s Private Schools,” is based on data from a survey of 117 private schools in the state. School officials were asked to fill out a questionnaire from the John Locke Foundation that was aimed at analyzing the school’s academics, personnel, student body, and attitudes toward school choice.
According to the report:
- the average class size of a private school in the state is 14 students, and none of the schools that participated in the survey had classes larger than 30 students.
- 2/3 of the schools in the survey enrolled students with learning difficulties or disabilities;
- a $5,000 scholarship would cover the annual tuition for a private elementary school, $5,500 would cover the annual tuition cost for the average private middle school, and $6,000 would cover the annual tuition cost for the average private high school;
- Over 2/3 of the schools in the survey offered some kind of financial aid.
"Since the average per pupil expenditure in the North Carolina public schools totaled $9,370 in 2007-08, it's good to have information to make cost comparisons with the state's private school options," said Terry Stoops, Education Policy Analyst at the John Locke Foundation and author of the report. "Better information about North Carolina's private schools is the first step toward persuading legislators to increase educational options for North Carolina families."
The John Locke Foundation also questioned private school officials about their support for expanding school choice in North Carolina. In general, most private schools in the survey were supportive of school choice options, such as vouchers and tax credits, although the majority expressed concern about the possibility of expanded government control over private schools that accept students using public funding. For example, over 86 percent of private school officials supported voucher programs and none were opposed to tax credit programs that cover all or some of the tuition cost for specific students. But over 70 percent of private schools said they “would not enroll children whose families received public funds” if it meant more state oversight of their school, and over 50 percent said they would not enroll students with public funds if it meant the state could force the school to administer state achievement tests. In addition, over 70 percent of the private schools were opposed to vouchers or tax credits if it meant that the government could force their school to stop offering religious activities.
“Private religious schools were much less willing to accept government regulation or oversight than private schools with no religious affiliation," said Stoops. For example, the survey found that more than 75 percent of religious affiliated schools “would oppose increased government regulation in exchange for public funds,” compared to over 56 percent of independent schools.
"The Locke Foundation report is a valuable addition to the growing number of studies that are looking at the issue of school choice. All parents want the best education for their children and the time has passed when most public schools were a reliable provider of quality education," commented Bill Brooks, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council. "One can only hope that the General Assembly will hear the clarion call for education reform in our state and create the opportunity for more parents to have better educational choices for their children."
Copyright © 2009. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.