NC Supreme Court to hear school voucher appeal

Posted October 10, 2014
Updated October 13, 2014

— The North Carolina Supreme Court on Friday said it will decide the constitutionality of the state’s Opportunity Scholarships program, which gives public money for low-income students to attend private and religious schools.

The case was pending before the state Court of Appeals.

“All parties should be delighted with this development because the case was ultimately headed for the N.C. Supreme Court regardless of the decision by the N.C. Court of Appeals,” Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, said in a statement. “This will expedite the decision regarding this appeal case.”

The program, which was passed by lawmakers last year, drew thousands of applicants who applied for annual grants of $4,200 per child. The first $730,000 in tuition money for more than 360 students was about to be distributed to schools when a Superior Court judge in August halted any disbursement.

But last month, the appellate court allowed 1,878 students who had already accepted the vouchers before the judge’s ruling to receive the money.

The North Carolina Association of Educators and the North Carolina School Boards Association have filed separate lawsuits against the voucher law. Dozens of local school boards have also challenged the legality of the program.

The groups argue 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.

Stam, one of the sponsors of the Opportunity Scholarship Act, said he’s confident the program will remain in place and be allowed to expand.


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  • Terry Watts Oct 16, 2014
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    Interesting article about Charters in our State...

  • Terry Watts Oct 16, 2014
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    We could try out a system where we bus kids out of the poor neighborhoods to the more affluent schools, maybe setting it up so no one school has more than 40% of its students taking part in free lunch programs, etc. We could call it "Diversity Busing" or something...

    Oh wait...

  • flyfish42 Oct 15, 2014

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    The answer to your question is to fix the bad schools, not keep adding "private, religious" schoos at additional cost that do no better, and often much worse, than the public schools.

  • Betty Russell Oct 15, 2014
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    NO TAXPAYER money should pay for "poor" children to go to private school. If you want your child to go to private school then YOU PAY for it.....quit wanting me to support you and your kids....

  • Jim Dunn Oct 14, 2014
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    Isn't supposed to be what is best for the children? My ex-wife taught at burton Elementary in Durham and if you were poor and your child was stuck in such a terrible place, you would want an option too.

    If you want to break the cycle of poverty for some families, you are going to have to think outside the box. Those of us with an education and resources will move out of a bad school district. But what if you can't?

  • juliomercado Oct 14, 2014

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    Really? Look at where we rank? Did YOU? According to the experts and NOT ARM CHAIR quarterbacks, the NC school systems received the following grades this year (Edweek.org) Chance for success, C, Student Achievement C- (24 in the nation), school finances D- (42 in nation), Transitions and alignment B (14 in the nation), STANDARDS, ASSESSMENTS, and ACCOUNTABILITY A (10 in the nation), and Teaching Profession C+ (16th in the nation). So please stop whining about how bad our schools are. Outside of pathetic funding, they outperform over half the states in nearly every category and come in TOP TEN in accountability. I am sick and tired of people that really don't know a thing about anything blasting our over worked and underfunded public schools. Vouchers are taking even more precious resources from our schools, which ARE working!

  • miseem Oct 14, 2014

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    That depends on what your definition of sane is. The NC Supreme Court will probably find a way to wiggle around the NC Constitution prohibition on public tax funds being used for private unregulated schools by finding that is a secondary prohibition overruled by some other right. The funding sources for the upcoming election have most likely already presented their agenda and requirements for the upcoming session. Of course, without directly coordinating with the individual campaigns, which is illegal for the time being.

  • Kenny Dunn Oct 13, 2014
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    Could this be the next brick to fall? The courts have been rather sane recently.

  • Robyn Page Oct 13, 2014
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    We have approximately 1.5 million students in K-12 in NC. They offered 2400 vouchers, 1878 students applied. That is not an overwhelming response or clamor for vouchers. The only people who want these vouchers are people who are in favor of religious schools - with no accountability or standards. I feel sorry for these kids - they are being educationally left behind because of their parents - and will not be able to compete in the 'real' world outside of those insular communities.

  • miseem Oct 13, 2014

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    But there is nothing in the law that says a parent cannot pull a child from the best performing school in the state and send them to a school with 10 students taught by a 10th grade drop out. And to fall back on the typical right wing argument about why people are poor in the first place (poor judgement, lack of education, lazy, freeloaders) I'm surprised that the NCGA would trust a lower income parent to select a school for their kid. As I have said before, this is just an attempt to get court approval for vouchers under the guise of helping students from lower income families. Who can argue against that, right? Next thing, let's do this for middle incomes, private school is a strain on their budget and they deserve the same breaks as the poor. Who can argue against that, right? Finally, the old "why are the wealthy job creators discriminated against on these vouchers." Who can argue against that, right?