Opportunity Scholarship Grants Information for Parents and School Administrators Representative Paul Stam August 14, 2014
Enclosed Information • The Basics • Eligibility Requirements: Spring 2014 • Eligibility Requirements: 2015-16 • Income Eligibility Level: 2015-16 • Scholarship Priority: 2015-16 • How Will It Work? • Verification of Eligibility • Requirements for Nonpublic Schools • Other States with Scholarship Programs
The Basics • The new Opportunity Scholarship Program expands school choice in North Carolina by providing education scholarship grants of up to $4,200 per year for eligible children who choose to attend a private school. • The State Education Assistance Authority (SEAA) will administer the program and award the scholarships. The program’s first scholarships will be awarded for the 2014-2015 school year.
Understanding the Program: Spring 2015 • The General Assembly added $840,000 to the 2014 Budget to provide additional scholarships for the 2015 Spring Semester. Below are the basic requirements, but for more information go to www.ncseaa.edu. • Eligibility requirements for the first year of the program are slightly different than those for subsequent years. To qualify for a scholarship for the 2014-2015 school year, a child must: • Reside in a household with an income level not in excess of the amount required for the student to qualify for the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch • Be a full-time student who has not graduated from high school and attended a public school during the 2014 spring semester • All scholarship students will qualify to receive a grant of up to $2,100 for the spring semester, though the amount cannot exceed the actual cost of tuition and fees.
Understanding the Program: Eligibility Requirements for 2015-16 Starting for the 2015-16 school year, students will be eligible if they have not yet received a high school diploma and meet at least one of the following requirements: • Was a full-time student assigned to and attending a public school during the previous semester • Received a scholarship during the previous school year • Is entering kindergarten or the first grade • Is a child in foster care • Is a child whose adoption decree was entered not more than a year prior to applying for the scholarship Students must reside in a household with an income level not in excess of 133% of the amount required for the student to qualify for the Federal Free and Reduced-Price Lunch Program.
Understanding the Program: Income Eligibility Level for 2015-16 Beginning with the 2015-16 school year, students must be from a household with an annual income that does not exceed 133% of the amount required to qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch. The chart below can be used as a guide for understanding he program; the income figures will be updated by the Authority in January 2015. *These numbers are based on the Federal Poverty Guidelines for 2014 and are used fro illustrative purposes only. The official figures will be updated in January 2015
Understanding the Program: Scholarship Priority First priority will be given to eligible students who received a scholarship grant during the previous school year. After scholarships have been awarded to prior recipients, the following priority guidelines will apply: • At least 50% of the remaining funds must go to students who live in a household with an income that does not exceed the amount to qualify for the Free and Reduced Lunch program. • No more than 35% of the remaining funds can be awarded to students entering either kindergarten or first grade. • Any remaining funds will then be awarded to other eligible students.
Understanding the Program: Scholarship Amounts Beginning in 2015-16 $4,200: Students residing in a household with an income level not in excess of the amount required to qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch will be eligible for a scholarship of up to $4,200. No scholarship will exceed $4,200 per year or the amount required to pay for the student’s tuition and fees, whichever is less. 90% of tuition and fees: Students residing in a household with an income level between 100% and 133% of the amount required to qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch will be eligible to receive a scholarship of up to 90% of their tuition and fees at the nonpublic school. This may, in some circumstances, equal the full $4,200.
How Does It Work? The SEAA is required to make applications available for the 2015-2016 school year no later than February 1, 2015. They must begin awarding grants by March 1, 2015. The February 1st and March 1st deadlines also apply to the program in future years. Once a child has been awarded a scholarship, the SEAA will send the scholarship grant funds to the appropriate nonpublic school at least twice a year. The student’s parent or guardian will be required to endorse the scholarship funds to the nonpublic school for deposit into the school’s account. This must be done in person at the site of the nonpublic school. Applications and personally identifiable information related to eligible students receiving scholarship grants are not public records.
Verification of Eligibility • The SEAA is authorized to verify information on any scholarship application from eligible students. • The SEAA must verify 6% of applications annually and will establish rules for the verification process. These may be similar to the verification process used for Federal Free and Reduced-Price Lunch applications. • Household members of scholarship applicants will be required to authorize the SEAA to access relevant information held by other state agencies. If a household fails to cooperate with verification efforts, the student’s scholarship will be revoked.
Requirements for Nonpublic Schools • Nonpublic schools that participate in the Opportunity Scholarship Program must comply with the following requirements: • Provide the SEAA with documentation for tuition and fees that have been charged to the student. • Provide to the Authority a criminal background check conducted for the staff member with the highest decision-making authority to make sure he or she has not been convicted of any crime. • Provide each scholarship student’s parent/guardian an annual explanation of the student’s progress (including scores on standardized achievement tests). • Administer a nationally standardized test to all scholarship students enrolled in grades three or higher at least once a year. The test must measure performance in the areas of English grammar, reading, spelling, and mathematics. Scores must be reported to the SEAA each year by July 15.
Requirements for Nonpublic Schools - Continued • Nonpublic schools must also provide the SEAA with the graduation rates of scholarship students. • If a school accepts students who receive a collective total of more than $300,000 in scholarship grants, it must contract with a CPA to perform a financial review. • The school cannot require any additional fees based on the status of the student as a scholarship recipient. • Schools enrolling more than 25 scholarship students must report test performance data in the aggregate. • Schools cannot discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin. • For nonpublic schools that accept scholarship students, the scholarships will not be considered funding from the State of North Carolina.
Other States with Scholarship Programs Ohio, Indiana and Louisiana all have scholarship programs for nonpublic educational expenses. While the programs differ in various ways from the North Carolina proposal, it is valuable to see how these programs are working. In Ohio, students enrolled in chronically failing public schools are eligible for scholarships to attend a nonpublic school. Indiana provides scholarships for low-income students to attend any participating nonpublic school if they have attended a public school for the two previous semesters. Students in low-performing schools in Louisiana are eligible for scholarships to attend a nonpublic school.
Additional Information Additional information about the program is available on the State Education Assistance Authority’s website: http://www.ncseaa.edu/OSG.htm NCSEAAContact Information:Phone: 1-855-330-3955 (toll-free) Email: OpportunityScholarships@ncseaa.eduFax: 919-248-4687
Have Questions? Need More Information? • Please feel free to contact us. We will be happy to provide more information and help answer questions. • Office of Speaker Pro Tem Paul Stam: • Gregg Sinders, Gregg.Sinders@ncleg.net • General Office Phone Number: 919-733-2962 • Office of Rep. Rob Bryan: • Rob.Bryan@ncleg.net • General Office Phone Number: 919-733-5607