Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Details about 'Voucher' Money

On September 11th, I posted the following rhetorical tweet:

The $11.7 million legislators have decided to set aside in the budget for "Opportunity Scholarships" is from tax payer money.  During the North Carolina General Assembly's session this summer, the decision to set aside this money was placed into the budget and become law.  To refresh, any student who would be considered for the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch standard will be able to apply for a $4,200 voucher to help subsidize tuition at a private school.  This money will be given directly to the private school, not the family/student.

My recent question dealt with the issue of what will happen if the "Opportunity Scholarship" (better know as vouchers) money is not completely used.

In a simplistic example of my concern:

Let's pretend I am planning to get some repairs done on my car, and I expect the repair to cost $1000.  I save $500 to cover this expense, budgeting by saving money in other areas or scaling back, and use $500 from a savings account.  But, the cost of the repairs only ends up being $650.  Do I return the $350 to my savings account or find a way to spend the $350?

A local government official, who follows me on Twitter, viewed the tweet.  To inquire, he contacted the district's Representative in the North Carolina General Assembly.  Correspondence among legislators occurred, as a result of my tweet (my tweet was actually referenced in an email, forwarded to me; I did not include in this post).

In an email from Kristopher Nordstrom of Fiscal Research, sent to Representative John Torbett on September 12, 2013, the following was stated:

It is anticipated that 2,406 students will accept an Opportunity Scholarship in FY 14-15 and transfer to a private school from a public school.  Analysis of other states’ programs and further analysis of economic literature indicates that we would expect anywhere between 5,655 and 12,566 applications for Opportunity Scholarships.  In short, it is extremely likely that all of the money will be used.

In the unlikely chance that scholarship money goes unused, the money will effectively be “returned” to the LEAs.  The $11.7 million figure is an anticipated amount used for budgeting purposes.  In practice, LEAs will only have their budgets reduced based on the actual students leaving that LEA. No LEA budgets have been reduced based on the anticipated budget figure.

To summarize:

  • The State expects anywhere from 5,655 to 12,566 students to APPLY for Opportunity Scholarships.
  • Of the above range, the State expects 2,406 students to ACCEPT the scholarship.
  • 2406 students x $4200 = approximately $10.1 million, which is close to the "anticipated amount used for budgeting purposes" of $11.7 million.
The reference to LEA's having their budgets reduced "based on the actual students leaving that LEA" is in accordance to have per-pupil funding and Average Daily Membership figures are used.  Basically, every LEA earns a certain amount of funding "per pupil", i.e. for every student attending school.

The $11.7 million figure being discussed frequently and passionately in education circles throughout North Carolina is the estimated amount legislators have used for budgeting.  In all reality, the actual dollar amount used in 2014-2015 for Opportunity Scholarships could be much less, and possibly much greater.

Those of us in public education won't see any impact until the 2014-2015 school-year begins.  Yet, we in public education cannot focus on "the actual students leaving", but rather the students who walk through our doors. 

Thanks for reading,


The opinions shared in this blog belong to Craig Smith and do not represent the school or district in which he works.


  1. Thank you for looking into this! I have been wondering about this very thing since I heard about the $ being set aside!

    1. You are very welcome. Thank YOU for reading and commenting.