North Carolina offers families some school choice options.
Public School Choice:
North Carolina offers some choice in the public school system. North Carolina has not enacted an open enrollment policy to facilitate public school choice, according to the Education Commission of the States.
Private School Choice:
As of 2011, North Carolina offers private school choice for special needs students via a tax credit scholarship program. The Tax Credits for Children with Disabilities program allows parents of special needs students to receive a non-refundable tax credit of up to $6,000 a year for private school tuition and other related educational expenses. In 2011, nearly 700 students were awarded scholarships through this program. Additionally, North Carolina will begin to offer school vouchers to children from low-income families in 2014.
The Center for Education Reform reports that North Carolina has a weak charter school law. The process to open a charter school is very difficult, and the North Carolina Charter Schools Advisory Board is the only body that can approve of charters. However, as of 2011, the state completely lifted the cap on the number of charter schools allowed to operate in the state. In all, over 50,000 students attended one of the state's 107 public charter schools in 2013, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
According to the Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning report, the only online opportunity available for North Carolina students is offered through the state-led North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS). There are no additional statewide or district online programs. However, the state virtual school is the second largest in the U.S., with 88,716 course enrollments for grades 9-12 in the 2010-2011 school year, a 20 percent increase over the previous school year. In January 2013, legislation was passed regulating the funding and requirements for state-led virtual charter schools. However, there was high opposition towards the North Carolina Virtual Academy and a judge ruled in July 2012 that virtual charter schools could not be opened because they did not have the approval of the state Board of Education.
In 2011, North Carolina passed legislation to completely lift the cap on the number of charter schools allowed to operate in the state, previously limited to 100. North Carolina also implemented its very first private school choice program to allow parents of special needs students to receive a tax credit of up to $6,000 for private school and other educational expenses.
Click here for detailed information on North Carolina's public school system and see below for school choice contacts and a history of school choice legislation in North Carolina.