Wednesday marks the beginning of the month-long 2017-18 priority application cycle for the Opportunity Scholarship Program, funded at its highest level since its inception in 2014.
In conjunction with the application opening, PEFNC is launching a statewide awareness campaign featuring NFL All-Pro Linebacker Thomas Davis of the Carolina Panthers and NBA All-Star Chris Paul of the LA Clippers.
Davis and Paul will promote awareness of the Opportunity Scholarship Program and application to North Carolina families through an online video campaign.
An estimated 8,222 scholarships are to become available to families submitting 2017-18 school year applications. Funding is expected to reach nearly $35 million in 2017-18, a $10 million increase over 2016-17.
The Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides eligible low-income families with state-funded scholarships to send their children to private school, currently serves nearly 5,800 students; but an additional 600 students remain on the waitlist.
State lawmakers expanded the Opportunity Scholarship Program in 2016 in response to enormous parental demand.
Program funding is slated to grow by $10 million annually over the next decade, creating up to 2,500 new scholarships each year. By 2028-29, funding will rise to nearly $145 million, enabling upwards of 36,000 low-income students to receive scholarships.
“The Opportunity Scholarship Program is an educational lifeline for thousands of families in our state,” said Darrell Allison, President of PEFNC. “But our research shows us that thousands more are not even aware of the program’s existence. Expansion of this program provides these parents with great opportunity — but also confers on us great responsibility, as we must work to ensure all of our state’s families know about their K-12 options and are educated about these options. As parental school choice advocates, we’ve long known we had the right message. As parental school choice advocates, we’ve long known we had the right message; however, we are especially honored this year to have high-profile citizen-athletes like Thomas Davis and Chris Paul, being our messengers.”
PEFNC’s awareness campaign encourages current families to re-enroll and ensures new families are aware of the Opportunity Scholarship and the application timeline. Speaking directly to parents, Davis said, “Thousands of children are already benefiting from this program. Now is your time to get off the bench and get into the game.”
Paul, a North Carolina native who attended public and private schools, said, “Parents and children all across the state are excited about this educational option, and I am too. In just three years, thousands of children are already benefiting from this program and more than 23,000 applications have been submitted.”
Passed in 2013, the Opportunity Scholarship Program provides private school scholarships of up to $4,200 to low-income and working-class families in North Carolina.
In order for a family to be eligible for a scholarship for the 2017-18 school year, household income must not exceed 133 percent of the amount to qualify for free and reduced price lunch which is about $59,790 for a family of four.
Families interested in learning more can check their eligibility for the program by visiting www.schoolchoicenorthcarolina.com.
All families must submit an official Opportunity Scholarship application through the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority .