NC Judge Rules School Vouchers Unconstitutional

NC Judge Rules School Vouchers Unconstitutional

5:35pm Aug 21, 2014
Students at Sedgefield Elementary in Greensboro learn about bullying prevention.
Keri Brown

A North Carolina judge has ordered private school vouchers unconstitutional. Wake County Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood  ruled Thursday to stop the use of taxpayer money for tuition at private or religious schools.

Hobgood says the program is unconstitutional for several reasons, including that it pays for students to attend schools that don’t have to meet state curriculum requirements.  He adds that religious schools shouldn’t use public money.

Rodney Ellis with the North Carolina Association of Educators says it’s also a victory because money won’t be diverted from the public school system.

“I don’t care what kind of shell games you play with the money, it’s still public funds," says Ellis. "And according to our constitution public dollars are to be used exclusively for the funding of a sound basic education for all children in North Carolina, and this ruling will allow us to continue to do that without siphoning off funds that quite frankly could be used for textbooks right now.”

But Darrell Allison with Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina says the judge’s ruling will hurt the 2,300 students that could be impacted by the decision.  “There’s no solid legal argument, other than he personally does not agree with the opportunity scholarship program.”

The voucher program gives low-income families up to $4,200 for their child to attend a private school. State lawmakers passed a 2013 budget that marked $10 million to be used for the Opportunity Scholarship program beginning this fall.

Allison says there will be an appeal and he hopes it can happen soon. “That’s because now we have bodies in seats and we actually have teachers that are instructing, and also the dilemma that we put these families in. Many of them who don’t want to go back to their former school probably can’t go back to the school that they are zoned to because of capacity issues."

The state agency managing the funds says money that was planned for distribution earlier this week has stopped.

Follow Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

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