This North Carolina school voucher program was enacted in 2013 and launched in 2014. Students with qualifying special needs are eligible to receive school vouchers, which are awarded by semester, rather than school year. Families may use vouchers to pay private school tuition or homeschool services. Learn more about the program’s participation rates, funding, rules, and more on this page.
One of 15 private school choice programs exclusively for students with special needs
611 participating students (2014–15)
12 percent of students eligible statewide
168 participating schools (2014–15)
Average voucher value: $5,070 (2014–15)
Value as a percentage of public school per-student spending: 60 percent
North Carolina allows students with special needs to receive vouchers to attend private schools of their parents’ choosing.
Vouchers are worth up to $4,000 per semester ($8,000 per school year) and may be used for private school tuition and special education services, including services provided to homeschooled students. A total of $4.2 million is available for vouchers for each fiscal year, and any leftover funds will carry over to the next fiscal year.
To qualify, students must require an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and receive special education services on a daily basis. Additionally, students must have either been (1) enrolled in a North Carolina public school during the previous semester, (2) received special education services as a preschooler during the previous semester, (3) received a voucher under this program during the previous semester, or (4) be eligible for enrollment in kindergarten or first grade.
Although North Carolina already improved school choice for students with special needs by shifting from a nonrefundable, individual tax credit for educational expenses to this voucher program, the current policy still has room for improvement. The program is strong on eligibility, and is clearly intended to eventually serve all families of children with special needs who think their children would be better served in different schools. Funding per student was increased from $6,000 to $8,000 per student per year, which is laudable and a step in the right direction. The next step should be to take into account additional funds that many students with disabilities need for required specialized services.
N.C. Rev. Stat. §§ 115C-112.5–9
On July 23, 2015, the North Carolina Supreme Court upheld all aspects of that state’s two vouchers, the Opportunity Scholarship Program and the Special Education Scholarship Grants for Children with Disabilities, as constitutional. Hart v. North Carolina; Richardson v. North Carolina.