Poll: Overwhelming support for school choice in N.C.

School children wearing facemasks walk outside their elementary school. (Photo by FRANCOIS PICARD/AFP via Getty Images)

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UPDATED 12:15 PM PT – Saturday, January 30, 2021

A growing number of parents in North Carolina believe they should have a choice regarding school enrollment. As a result, they voiced their frustration with school districts.

According to a Civitas Poll released this week, a whopping 82 percent of parents believed they should have the right to pick the school their child attends. Nearly half of all respondents agreed that school choice allowed parents to make the best education decisions for their child.

A majority of parents also said they would change their child’s school based on the quality of education received. Currently, parents can only choose from a list generated by the state, which limits their child’s options.

“Educational opportunity is what got me out of the inner city,” Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) said. “My mom was a school choice mom before school choice was, you know, cool I guess you could say, but the difference was that there were no programs for her to be able to find alternatives for me.”

Rep. Byron Donalds is a strong advocate for school choice. He said the lack of choice can be a burden for so many families in already tight situations.

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) arrives to the Hyatt Regency hotel on Capitol Hill on November 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. Orientation begins for the newly-elected members today and will run through Nov. 21. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

“For my sisters, [my mom] had to pay for it out of her own pocket and she struggled and she really had major sacrifices to make ends meet,” Donalds stated. “But through that process, she got what she wanted and desired for her children and there’s so many parents like my mom across the entire United States who just want that opportunity.”

Donald added that school choice overwhelmingly benefits poor, minority, and disabled students and their families.

The Florida lawmaker also praised President Trump for voicing similar sentiments in the past, noting that the zip code or neighborhood should not dictate where a child is allowed to go to school.

Back in September, North Carolina’s general assembly expanded the Opportunity Scholarship Program, which changed the income eligibility threshold to allow more residents to apply for private schools. However, any progress made towards school choice has been thwarted by the ongoing impacts of the pandemic.

Health officials recently extended school closures in the state again, which left parents and staff disheartened.

“It has been agonizing and heart-wrenching to have to bring such a recommendation in light of all that our students have been through,” Earnest Winston, superintendent of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, noted. “Over the past — almost a year now.”

Skepticism over school shutdowns has heightened in recent months among both parents and school officials. Meanwhile, more schools nationwide are moving to re-open.

“We don’t have a sound legal basis for this decision, we don’t have a sound medical basis for this decision,” Sean Strain of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education said. “And our kids are the ones that continue to pay the price for these adult decisions on this board which defy logic and dare I say, law.”

In the meantime, state Republicans plan to file legislation to officially reopen schools.

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