Special Education Scholarship Grants for Children with Disabilities
- Enacted 2013
- Launched 2014
This North Carolina Special Education Scholarship Grants for Children with Disabilities program allows families of students with special needs to receive vouchers to attend private schools. Students with qualifying special needs are eligible to receive school vouchers, which are awarded by semester, rather than school year. Families may use these vouchers to pay for private school tuition or homeschooling services. Learn more about the program’s participation rates, funding, rules and more on this page.
We do not administer this program.
Participating Students (2020–21)
of Students Eligible Statewide
Participating Schools (2020–21)
Average Voucher Value (2020–21)
Value as a Percentage of Public School Per-student Spending
North Carolina’s Special Education Scholarship Grants for Children with Disabilities Program Participation
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 home-schooled students. A total of $13.1 million was available for vouchers in 2018–19, and that amount was set to remain available for 2019–20, pending legislative action. Any leftover funds will carry over to the next fiscal year.
To qualify, students must require an Individualized Education Plan and receive special education services on a daily basis. Additionally, students must have either (1) been enrolled in a North Carolina public school during the previous spring, (2) received special education services as a preschooler during the previous semester, (3) received a voucher under this program during the previous semester, (4) be eligible for enrollment in kindergarten or first grade or (5) be a dependent of an active-duty member of the military.
EdChoice Expert Feedback
North Carolina’s voucher program for students with special needs helps thousands of students access schools that are the right fit for them, but policymakers could do much more to expand educational opportunity.
Eligibility for the vouchers is limited to students in grades K–12 who have had an IEP. Only 10 percent of North Carolina’s students are eligible for a scholarship and only 0.8 percent of students statewide actually use one of North Carolina’s three educational choice programs (including the Opportunity Scholarships and Personal Education Savings Accounts).
The average voucher value is about $6,362, which is about 63 percent of the average expenditure per student at North Carolina’s district schools.
In order to expand access to educational choice, North Carolina policymakers should expand eligibility to all students.
North Carolina’s voucher program generally avoids unnecessary and counterproductive regulations.
Rules and Regulations
- Income Limit: None
- Prior Year Public School Requirement: Conditional
- Geographic Limit: Statewide
- Enrollment Cap: None
- Voucher Cap: $4,000 per semester
- Testing Mandates: National
- *Limited to students with special needs
- Meet state nondiscrimination policies
- Comply with health and safety requirements
No legal challenges have been filed against this program. However, on July 23, 2015, the North Carolina Supreme Court upheld all aspects of the state’s voucher for children of low-income households, the Opportunity Scholarship Program, as constitutional. The court overturned the lower court decision in Hart v. State, No. 13 CVS 16771 (August 28, 2014). Hart v. State, 774 S.E.2d 281 (N.C. 2015); Richardson v. State, 774 S.E.2d 304 (2015).
Special Education Scholarship Grants for Children with Disabilities State Groups
That Support School Choice
Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina is a non-profit organization that advocates for quality educational options through parental school choice.
We help North Carolina pay for education. We are the State agency that promotes access to education by administering financial aid and savings programs, informing students and families about paying for education, teaching educators about financial aid administration, and advocating for resources to support students.