Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Atkinson: Health of Public Schools More Important Than Student Welfare

RALEIGH — State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said her concerns about allowing students to use vouchers to offset the cost of private schooling was more a principled support of public schools’ role in modern society than the effect vouchers could have in meeting individual children’s needs.

“It’s not the individual, it’s the society as a whole, where it worries me about the privatization of public education,” Atkinson said Monday. “It’s a philosophical belief that public schools — public education — is at the core of our democracy, and is at the core of ensuring that we can prepare people to live with and work with people who are different than what one they have in a segregated environment.”

Atkinson said she worried that the availability of vouchers would erode support for public schools.

“What concerns me is not that individual child, but what concerns me is as a society that we will slowly starve public education,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson made the comments during a roundtable discussion with reporters in downtown Raleigh. The UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s Program of Public Life sponsored the program.

The budget recently signed by Gov. Pat McCrory authorized $10 million for the 2014-15 school year to cover "opportunity scholarships," or vouchers, of no more than $4,200 each that would offset the tuition costs of low-income students who wanted to attend private schools. The funding would cover a portion of the expenses of private schooling for roughly 2,000 students the first year; approximately 1.5 million students attend K-12 public schools in North Carolina.

Terry Stoops, director of research and education studies at the John Locke Foundation, had qualms with Atkinson’s comments.

“That’s par for the course for someone in her position,” Stoops said. “The Department of Public Instruction is not mindful of the needs of individual students.”

READ MORE:  Atkinson: Health of Public Schools More Important Than Student Welfare

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