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'Slowly starving our traditional public schools' | Teachers concerned new voucher bill will undermine public education

On Flashpoint, a CMS teacher says the plan would divert money better spent on public schools.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Justin Parmenter is a CMS teacher and public school advocate.  He says the new "Choose Your School, Choose Your Future" bill in the General Assembly offers the wrong kind of choice.

"When your choices have a negative impact on the education that others are receiving, it's not just about your own personal choice. And so I think this approach is depleting resources that we really need in our traditional public schools," Parmenter said on WCNC's Flashpoint. 

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On Wednesday, North Carolina Republicans celebrated what would be the largest expansion of the state's private school voucher program since it was created, saying all families should qualify for at least some money regardless of income.

Senate Bill 406 would remove the program's current income caps, replacing them with a sliding scale that would let any family get a voucher, called an Opportunity Scholarship, of up to $3,246.  

The program works by providing students vouchers that are equal to or less than the value the state would have spent if they attended public schools. This is called the State per pupil allocation.  

"The money doesn't automatically belong to the local public school. And that's one of the fundamental changes that is evolving in public education. And having a say, in where your child goes to school is extremely important and empowering," Joel Ford, former state senator and school choice advocate, said.

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Parmenter argues it's money being diverted from public education.

"We are slowly starving our traditional public schools, as we create more and more choice," said Parmenter.

Still, supporters of the plan say parents deserve a choice in removing their children from underperforming schools.

"You've got 80% of black and brown children in this state, that can't read by third grade.  Then that is a huge issue that they don't want to talk about," Ford said.

The North Carolina Association of Educators opposes the bill. 

Senate Bill 406 passed a committee vote and is now in front of another committee. With supermajorities in both the state house and senate, republicans could override the governor's likely veto.


Flashpoint is a weekly in-depth look at politics in Charlotte, North Carolina, South Carolina, and beyond with host Ben Thompson. Listen to the podcast weekly.
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