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N.C. Supreme Court Allows Voucher Program To Continue

Gavel, Court
SalFalko via Flickr, Creative Commons

 The North Carolina Supreme Court has overturned a lower court’s order to halt the state’s voucher program.

That means the program can go on – at least for now. It’s a program that gives low-income families scholarships of up to $4,200 to help send their children to private schools.

Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood issued an injunction earlier this year to stop the program, siding with critics who say it’s unconstitutional because the private school scholarships are funded with taxpayer dollars.

Supporters on the other hand say it gives students more school choice and educational opportunity.

“We’re not having great outcomes for the vast majority of low-income students,” says Darrell Allison, president of the Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina.

“Whether they’re in the mountain or on the coast, because of their zip code and because of their income, they’re not getting the most adequate education.”  

The North Carolina Association of Educators and the North Carolina School Boards Association filed two separate lawsuits against the voucher law, which was passed last year.

The program is designed to reward 2,400 students. About 5,500 students have already applied.

“We are disappointed by the Supreme Court's decision,” said Edwin Dunlap, Jr., the Executive Director of the NCSBA, one of the plaintiffs in the suit. “The prudent thing would have been to answer these important constitutional questions before the state started spending public money on private schools.”

Rodney Ellis, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, says that as the litigation continues, plaintiffs will seek a permanent injunction on the program.

"Private schools have no accountability to taxpayers: they are not required to be accredited, to hire certified teachers, to have a curriculum, or to perform criminal background checks on teachers or staff.  They can use discriminatory policies to choose their students.  We think this is wrong.  That’s why we’re fighting this,” he said.

A trial date for the case has not been set.

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