NC legislature should not expand funding and student eligibility for school vouchers

Staff
·3 min read

Welcome to NC Voices, where leaders, readers and experts from across North Carolina can speak on issues affecting our communities. Send submissions of 300 words or fewer to opinion@newsobserver.com.

School vouchers

The Gospels offer a clarion call from Jesus to love our neighbors and care for the poor and vulnerable among us.

In North Carolina, the most vulnerable children are those who are people of color, as well as those who have special needs, come from low-wealth families, live in rural areas, are learning English, and are pre-kindergarten.

They need access to public education that is equitably resourced and meets their right to a “sound basic education” afforded by the North Carolina Constitution.

As director of Pastors for NC Children, an Every Child NC Coalition member, Moravian clergy, and public school parent, I strongly believe any attempt to move public money into private education is a violation of the moral, ethical and constitutional obligations of the North Carolina General Assembly.

Instead of supporting our vulnerable neighbors, the North Carolina legislature continues to expand Opportunity Scholarship Vouchers in House Bill 32.

This bill sends more public money to unregulated private schools with no accountability for how the money is used or what is taught.

Most of these schools in North Carolina are religious-based, and all can discriminate against the children they choose to educate. This is a violation of religious liberty.

North Carolina needs to meet its constitutional obligations to adequately and equitably fund our public schools. Public money should only go to public schools.

Jesus reminds us in John 15 to “bear fruit that will last.” All children in our state will benefit from a strong public education system that focuses on the needs of the most vulnerable.

It is imperative that faith leaders speak out in support of North Carolina’s public schools.

Our children deserve a world-class education, and the investment it will take is worth it as we help children flourish. This fruit will last for generations to come.

Rev. Suzanne Parker Miller, Raleigh

Rural broadband

The writer is an economic development specialist in Beaufort County.

I grew up in suburban Charlotte where the solution to internet trouble typically required a simple restart of the router or switching to one of many other providers. I never realized there were people in my home state unable to access the digital world because they lack broadband infrastructure.

According to the N.C. Department of Information Technology and the Pew Research Center (2015) seven out of 10 teachers nationwide give homework assignments that require the internet. Yet, an estimated 5 million households with school-age children lack access to the internet, often due to the absence of rural broadband infrastructure.

Lack of rural broadband is contributing to younger generations leaving rural N.C. for better opportunities. Out-migration impacts our workforce, often eliminating rural N.C. areas from consideration by companies seeking expansion and relocation destinations.

That’s why the N.C. Economic Development Association is advocating aggressively for broadband solutions that ensure businesses, residents and students across the state have access to the ever-increasing global economy.

Just as digital educational resources help prepare students for sustainable careers, telehealth applications have the potential to improve healthcare access for rural patients and save lives.

I suffered a COVID-19 infection in February. Thanks to telemedicine and broadband access, I was able to access my doctor virtually three times for my asthma-stricken lungs without exposing an emergency room or doctor’s office. Rural America needs this option.

The American Rescue Plan is extending massive federal resources to states and communities for broadband, with additional appropriations likely when Congress passes an infrastructure bill.

Lack of broadband is a solvable problem. The time is now. NCEDA and other organizations are urging governing entities to create a bold, specific plan with American Rescue Plan allocations designated for connectivity.

Achievable solutions are critical for students and schools, for telehealth, business creation, economic growth and sustainable prosperity.

Elizabeth Underwood, Greenville