The state Supreme Court is about to decide on the constitutionality of the Opportunity Scholarship program. It allows students to attend private schools through tax-payer funded vouchers, which critics say hurts public schools. But there are many families already using the vouchers and they're in limbo as they await the court's ruling.

The junior varsity football team at High Point Christian Academy begins their drills, readying themselves for another season. 15 year-old Malik Greene is with his dad, Mike, who is now coaching after his son received an opportunity scholarship to attend the school.

Malik says he was struggling academically at his zoned public school.

“Because in public school there were 30 to 40 kids in the classroom and it was hard to learn and ask questions if you don't understand or not," says Malik.

His father, Mike Greene, says his son has made a lot of progress over the past year in his new school.

“I see a big difference in his growth and maturity level. When he was in the public school system I didn't see that. There was a lack of intensity. He really didn't want to go and there was no interest in school,” says Greene. “Now that he is at High Point Christian he's excited. It's a joy to go to school now.”

North Carolina lawmakers enacted a school voucher program in 2013. More than $10 million dollars was earmarked for the first year. It gives low-income families up to $4,200 for their child to attend a private school.

It was ruled unconstitutional last year, but an appeals court continued to fund students like Malik who had already received the scholarships and allowed future applications to continue.

Supporters of the program say parents like Greene deserve additional educational options for their children.

Darrell Allison is with Parents For Educational Freedom in North Carolina. He says a student's zip code shouldn't limit their chances for success. “It just puts more money into the system when we are already generating lower performance in terms of families who are low income, and who don't make enough to be zoned in a school that works for them.”

But critics say it violates the state constitution. They argue it siphons badly needed funds away from public education and funnels them into unaccountable, largely religious private schools.  

“And it's going to continue to harm public schools in North Carolina and I think across the nation people are watching to see the results of this case because I think you will see efforts to push vouchers in other states,” says Rodney Ellis with the North Carolina Association of Educators.

He says lawmakers are discussing adding more funding for the program and that raises some major concerns.

“We are currently ranked 48 in per pupil spending and as we continue to drain fundingwhich is exactly what these vouchers dowe are going to see a reduction in resources, we are going to continue to struggle to provide technology and textbooks for our students and we won't have that one-on-one interaction with teachers that students so desperately need,” says Ellis.

Around 1,200 students across the state received the scholarships in the first year of the voucher program.  Of that number, more than 95 percent have reapplied and 5,000 more applications were submitted online.

Mike Greene says he's not sure what his family will do if the court doesn't allow it to move forward and his son has to leave a school where he's been thriving.

“It would be heart breaking if it's not renewed because I would be sending my kid back to a school that I know is failing him,” he says. “As a parent, how can you sleep at night when you know your child is not getting the best education in the world.  What parent wants to make that type of decision that you have to tell your kid that this school isn't the right place for you but you have to send them back there anyway?”

But Greene continues to hold out hope that his son will return to High Point Christian for his sophomore year. He's going as planned until the Supreme Court makes its decision, which is expected to happen in the next few weeks.

*Follow Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news.

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