@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

State teachers' group files lawsuit challenging voucher program

Posted December 11, 2013
Updated January 22

— The North Carolina Association of Educators filed a lawsuit in Wake County Superior Court on Wednesday, challenging the state’s new private school voucher program.

The advocacy group wants the court to declare unconstitutional the Opportunity Scholarships Act, which was passed by the General Assembly earlier this year, and stop the state from issuing the vouchers.

Under the program, state lawmakers set aside $10 million in the budget to help pay private school tuition for about 2,500 students, starting in the 2014-15 school year. Legislative leaders said they plan to ratchet the fund up to $50 million a year after that.

The vouchers would provide $4,200 per year to assist in private tuition, and supporters say it offers options for low-income students at under-performing schools.

The North Carolina School Boards Association filed a separate suit against the program, and dozens of school districts statewide have joined that lawsuit.

The NCAE contends in its lawsuit that the state constitution requires public money that is earmarked for education be spent “exclusively” on public schools. They also argue that the state shouldn’t be giving money to private schools when the public school system ranks among the lowest in the nation.

“The North Carolina Constitution could not be more explicit: Public monies are to be used only for free public schools, period. That is the heart of our legal challenge,” said Melinda Lawrence, executive director of the North Carolina Justice Center, which also sponsored the lawsuit.

Rodney Ellis, president of the NCAE and a Winston-Salem teacher, is among the 25 plaintiffs named in the lawsuit. He called the voucher program “part of a broad assault on public schools and on the constitution of our state.”

“Schools without standards, without accountability, are not worthy of a $4,200 check," Ellis said. "The government-run voucher program described in this unconstitutional legislation will siphon public money from schools already struggling to make ends meet. As a father of children in the public schools, as a taxpayer, I find this offensive and wrong. I do not want my tax dollars paying for children to attend private schools."

House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger issued a statement in response to the filing, noting that 16 other states and Washington, D.C., have similar, successful programs.

"Not only are these left-wing interest groups fighting every attempt to improve public education, they now want to trap underprivileged and disabled children in low-performing schools where they will continue to fall behind their peers," they said.

288 Comments

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  • wendydunn2002 Dec 19, 9:52 p.m.

    Please educate yourselves with the facts. Watch "The Cartel". You cannot force parents to keep students in schools that are not materially meeting their child's academic needs. Competition is good and it actually saves taxpayer funds. Open your eyes to this...it is more about political interests than that of the child. School vouchers are good and let's be honest how many private schools cost $4200K....oh wait you have parent buy-in a vesting...WOW what a concept!

  • SARCASTICLES Dec 17, 2:32 p.m.

    It's against the NC Constitution for public, taxpayer money to be used for private education.

    Ya'll can spin this all you want, but it's illegal.

    Just admit you want us to subsidize your kid's education in a place where he won't get poor or black on him, and cut out the lame excuses.

    Let he who is without stone cast the first sin.....

  • Plenty Coups Dec 13, 2:04 p.m.

    "What's wrong with a better education? If it takes vouchers to do it...then so be it. Why would teachers complain about a student going to a private school to get a quality education?"

    I agree, if it works so be it. But it doesn't. We tried all private schools before...the result was only those that could afford school were able to get an education. Private school achievement is higher...but only because they tend to have more affluent parents who put a greater emphasis on education. When you adjust for student background...private schools do worse or no better.

    Just ignoring these truths doesn't help your argument.

  • lessismore Dec 13, 9:42 a.m.

    This is a better use of our tax dollars.....getting a better education for children is important to some parents.

  • lessismore Dec 13, 9:11 a.m.

    ILoveDowntownRaleigh..... your taxes are still going towards education...just a better one. Whether the education is private or public should have no relevance, education is education....except the private one is usually better.

  • lessismore Dec 13, 9:09 a.m.

    These teachers who are part of this lawsuit are afraid that the higher scores from private schools will make them look bad, like they are not doing their jobs, it will embarrass them.

    What's wrong with a better education? If it takes vouchers to do it...then so be it. Why would teachers complain about a student going to a private school to get a quality education?

  • seapeeay Dec 13, 9:08 a.m.

    Justice4All - Don't take money from the teachers, they are already underpaid. Take the money from NCAE and it's member teachers.

    I think you will find that many good teachers are not members of NCAE. I think NCAE membership numbers are shrinking like most unions. May it continue.

  • seapeeay Dec 13, 9:05 a.m.

    Wow. Another stunt to take money away from education.

    The NCAE will spend more on politics and keeping bad teachers in the classroom than they will ever spend on helping education in NC.

    NCAE is for union thinking teachers NOT education. Many, many good teachers won't have anything to do with NCAE.

  • ILoveDowntownRaleigh Dec 12, 7:58 p.m.

    "If the voucher program goes forward can I get all of taxes which have gone to the school system refunded? I've never had children but have no problem with funding the public school system. Funding the private schools is another issue." AliceBToklas

    Agreed. Fair is fair!

  • AliceBToklas Dec 12, 4:44 p.m.

    If the voucher program goes forward can I get all of taxes which have gone to the school system refunded? I've never had children but have no problem with funding the public school system. Funding the private schools is another issue.

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