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@NCCapitol

Lawmakers seek to reinstate school voucher program

Posted April 11

School voucher generic, Opportunity Scholarship

— Legislative leaders said Friday that they plan to appeal a judge's decision that prevents low-income parents from receiving taxpayer money to help with the cost of sending their children to private or religious schools.

About 4,700 students had applied for the annual grants of up to $4,200 per child, called Opportunity Scholarships, with about half of the applications coming from Mecklenburg, Wake, Cumberland and Guilford counties, officials said.

But Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood issued an injunction in February, stopping the state from holding a lottery to award about 2,400 vouchers for the 2014-15 school year.

Attorney General Roy Cooper declined to appeal Hobgood's ruling, so House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger say they plan to do so.

“As if it isn’t bad enough that a single trial court’s ruling could trap underprivileged children in schools that don't fit their needs for another school year, it could also potentially wipe out programs to help students all across North Carolina,” Berger and Tillis said in a joint statement. “We are taking action to make sure these unintended and far-reaching consequences don’t become reality.”

Hobgood agreed with voucher opponents that state education funds must be spent on public schools, but the legislative leaders said that rationale could threaten funding to nonprofits that serve students across North Carolina, from Smart Start pre-kindergarten programs to university scholarship funds to programs for disabled and deaf children.

They noted that the state budget set aside $407 million in 2013-14 for such programs, with the bulk going to pre-kindergarten programs.

The North Carolina Association of Educators and the North Carolina School Boards Association filed separate suits against the voucher law, which was passed last year by the General Assembly. Dozens of local school boards also challenged the legality of the program.

The groups argued that spending taxpayer money on private schools is unconstitutional, especially when some of the schools discriminate in their admissions and don't have the academic standards or accountability of public schools.

Voucher supporters said, however, that the Opportunity Scholarships program would give low-income parents another educational option when public schools aren't meeting their needs. They also maintained that spending $10 million on the program could save the state money because of the high per-pupil cost in public schools.

30 Comments

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  • Rebelyell55 Apr 16, 10:42 a.m.

    Another one of the job bill that was doom to begin with. Oh wait, it's work for the lawyers, so some good will come from wasting out tax dollars. I know some would like this, but bottom line it would be a failure.

  • Shamrock Apr 15, 3:30 p.m.

    Pure discrimination. If the state wants to give vouchers, then give them to anyone that wants them. Best not to give taxpayer money to the private sector anyway.

  • atozca Apr 15, 11:21 a.m.

    Tax dollars have about as much business being spent on private school for individuals as it does... View More

    — Posted by shatzkiko

    Time to privatize education and give out vouchers. Can't believe that anyone wouldn't want to see one get an opportunity for a better education. Public schools are failing so many because we aren't a one size fits all. Time for competition, thus better education. Look at the home schooled graduates, they consistently test ahead of their public school peers. There are other options of education that aren't as costly as the public school system.

  • free2bme Apr 14, 4:29 p.m.

    NC Legislatures just keep wasting tax dollars. They have enough law suits pending already so what is the point to spend more money on this.

  • scottmac Apr 14, 12:20 p.m.

    And this once again will do absolutely nothing. It is discriminatory to not provide the same vouchers for everyone. Therefore, Private schools will simply increase the tuition to current tuition + vouchers. On top of that, they will take the vouchers and then boot the kids. The kids will not be at grade level, the will not teach down to them, and just flunk them out of the school.

    Make parents resposnible for their child's education. That is the only solution.

  • shatzkiko Apr 14, 11:08 a.m.

    Tax dollars have about as much business being spent on private school for individuals as it does paying my car payment. Public schools are available and public transportation is available and both are funded by tax dollars.

  • Sally1023 Apr 14, 10:55 a.m.

    NO! Take that money and provide better schools for EVERY public school student!!!!

  • Smilester Apr 14, 10:24 a.m.

    If you are truly poor and in "a cycle of poverty" the vouchers do not pay enough to send your... View More

    — Posted by goldenosprey

    This is exactly what vouchers are for. Also don't forget that every dime they take out of public schools weakens public schools more. If these guys can't use facts to back up their claims of the weakness of NC public schools they will do what they can to weaken them until the are terrible. The fact is that NC public schools actually are middle of the pack in performance compared to schools around the nation. Pretty amazing considering we are in the bottom 5 in terms of teacher pay.

  • sixnitepkg Apr 14, 9:47 a.m.

    "..., that the Opportunity Scholarships program would give low-income parents another educational option when public schools aren't meeting their needs. "

    1) So, the schools, "aren't meeting their needs" - EXACTLY WHOSE needs? the parents? that's not what schools are for!

    The children's? that is what title 9 is for! if the school system can't meet the educational needs of special needs children then they ARE REQUIRED BY FEDERAL LAW TO PAY FULL TUITION AT A SCHOOL THAT CAN! this is an attempt to pull the wool over people's eyes and make them think they're getting something special, when in fact they're getting LESS than they should!!

    2) if vouchers aren't for needs of parents who have a legit reason to seek better education then they're going to rich kids to give their rich mommies and daddies yet ANOTHER TAX BREAK at the expense of the middle and working class!

    3) the ENTIRE thing is unconstitutional - the GOP ardently supports religious discrimination!

  • for the people Apr 14, 9:11 a.m.

    Berger and Tillis have their own agenda and helping children from poverty is not high on their... View More

    — Posted by teacher2X4

    this is the state of things. i suspect you are dedicated teacher in our system. the problem with your post is that there is NOTHING in there placing any responsibility on the family and places all the on the government. imagine if parents did what they were supposed to do? we wouldn't need to spend and mostly waste the precious money resources we have on all you listed. to be clear, i don't mean the money spent on children is a waste, but rather that no amount of money is going to make a difference if the parents aren't involved.

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