Rita Haire is a former principal and now director of advancement at the private, faith-based High Point Christian Academy. It's a school that has more than 500 students, but Haire says that the sagging economy and trends in charter schools and home schooling have chipped away at enrollment over the last few years.

She's hoping to get a boost from a new program approved this year by the state legislature, which approved  $10 million for what they call "opportunity scholarships."

More commonly known as vouchers, the program will provide taxpayer money for low-income families to pull a child from public school and place them in a private school. It's estimated that more than 2,000 students will benefit from the vouchers, but Haire said it's hard to predict what it effect it will have on the school. 

 "North Carolina has never had legislation like this, so it's new to all of us," she said. "We certainly hope families will find out about opportunity scholarships and choose us - apply at High Point Christian."

The voucher program has sparked controversy. Supporters say it will provide an educational alternative for low-income families with children in poorly performing schools. Public education advocates argue that the program takes money away from cash-strapped schools, particularly when cuts are being made to other parts of the state school budget that for example reduces the number of teacher aids and bonus pay for teachers with advanced degrees.

After the first year, the program is set to expand from $10 million to $40 million and serve about 9,000 students.

WFDD's Keri Brown looks at the growth of charter schools in the state.

II. Are Charter Schools A Threat to Traditional Public Schools?

The push for more competition and school choice in North Carolina is changing the state's education landscape.

In 2011, state lawmakers voted to lift the 100-school cap on charter schools, allowing an unlimited number of tax-supported, independent schools. Now education officials say as many as 170 new charter schools could open in the Tar Heel state in 2015.

III. To view the You Tube Video of the Community Conversation on School Choice, Charters and Vouchers Click Here.

Please join 88.5 WFDD, the Forsyth Education Partnership, and the Wake Forest University Department of Politics and International Affairs for a Community Conversation on School Choice, Charters, and Vouchers.

Education leaders Darrell Allison (President of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina), Sara Dahill-Brown (Associate Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Wake Forest University), Rodney Ellis (President of the North Carolina Association of Educators), Robin Hollis (Principal of Winston-Salem's Arts Based School), and Don Martin (Professor at High Point University and retired Superintendent of Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools) will discuss these issues and answer audience questions.

This community forum will be moderated by WFDD's Keri Brown.  Bring your questions and comments to Kulynych Auditorium in the Wake Forest University Welcome Center on Tuesday, October 8th, at 7pm. Parking is available immediately adjacent to the Welcome Center.

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