Private School Choice

North Carolina has a trio of programs designed to provide access to private school choice for families in our state, including the Opportunity Scholarship Program.

For help with any school choice questions, the best resource is our parent liaison team. Send an email today or call us at (919)871-1084.

Private school choice initiatives are state-sponsored scholarship programs that offset the cost of school tuition for families. Some states, including North Carolina, provide tuition scholarships directly to families; other states have passed programs creating education tax credits for taxpayers who give money to scholarship granting organizations. Some programs allow individuals to receive a tax credit or deduction for education expenses, including tuition.

Private school choice programs are generally created to serve the needs of families that otherwise would not be able to afford private school tuition. The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, passed in 1990, is the nation’s longest-running contemporary private school choice initiative. This program currently serves more than 28,000 low-income students.

In 2013 North Carolina joined the ranks of states with private school choice programs for low-income students when the General Assembly passed the state’s Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP). OSP launched officially during the 2014-15 school year. These state-sponsored scholarships are funded at up to $4,200 a year and are renewable annually for eligible families.

OSP has experienced surging popularity and growth with each successive year. To date, North Carolina families have submitted more than 50,000 applications for these scholarships. Forward-funding of $145M by the North Carolina General Assembly will ensure OSP continues to expand over the next decade, and will eventually provide up to 36,000 students with private school scholarships. Click here for PEFNC's 1-pager on OSP.

Fast Facts on the Opportunity Scholarship Program:

  • 12,270 students have accepted Opportunity Scholarships to attend private schools for 2019-20.
  • Over 500 low-income students remain on the Opportunity Scholarship waitlist, hoping for a chance
  • Over 400 North Carolina private schools currently enroll Opportunity Scholarship students. The number of participating private schools with students enrolled has risen more than 80% since 2014-15.

SCNC.pngInterested in applying for an Opportunity Scholarship? Learn more here about eligibility requirements, application deadlines, and whether your family might pre-qualify.

Special needs school choice programs help families meet the unique educational challenges and gifts of their children who have disabilities. These publicly-funded programs enable students to attend the school that best addresses their particular needs while offsetting the burden of tuition for their families. Special needs school choice programs exist because public schools are unable to meet the individual needs of every student.

At least 13 states, including North Carolina, currently offer some form of school choice program for special needs students.  Learn more about North Carolina’s special needs school choice program, the Children with Disabilities Scholarship Grant.

In 2017 the North Carolina General Assembly created a second state-sponsored special needs school choice program, the Special Needs Education Savings Account (ESA). PEFNC led the effort to advocate for this program. Learn more about Special Needs ESAs at, or download a 1-pager about the ESA here.