Judge smacks N.C. lawmakers, rules school vouchers unconstitutional

Blasting state lawmakers for concocting a scheme that he said “fails” children, a North Carolina judge declared unconstitutional a state voucher program that uses public money for students from low-income families to pay private school tuition.

Wake County Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood ruled Thursday that the state’s “Opportunity Scholarship Program” violated the state’s constitution, which bars public money from going to private schools, and he declared that the state could not spend state funds for this purpose.


Principal Doug Phillips gathers some voucher-assisted students at Bethel Christian Academy in Kinston, N.C., on Thursday. A North Carolina judged has ruled that a school voucher program for low-income families violates the state constitution. (AP Photo/The Free Press/Zach Frailey)

According to this story by NC Policy Watch, Hobgood gets to the heart of the problem with school vouchers everywhere with this statement, delivered during his ruling from the bench on Thursday:

“The General Assembly fails the children of North Carolina when they are sent with public taxpayer money to private schools that have no legal obligation to teach them anything.”

Hobgood was ruling on a $10 million state program that, starting this school year, would give eligible students $4,200 in public money each year to pay for tuition at private schools, most of them religious. According to NC Policy Watch, Hobgood halted the program temporarily in February, ruling in a challenge to the Opportunity Scholarship Program by the North Carolina Association of Educators and two other groups. But in May, the state Supreme Court reversed that decision after the intervention of parents who were represented by a law firm backed by the ultra-conservative Koch Brothers.

The judge listed a number of reasons for declaring the voucher program unconstitutional, including that public funds for education should only be used for the system of free public schools.

According to the Charlotte Observer, Hobgood said from the bench:

“It appears to this court that the General Assembly is seeking to push at-risk students from low-income families into non-public schools in order to avoid the cost of providing them a sound, basic education in public schools as mandated by the Leandro decision,” Hobgood said. “The General Assembly fails the children of North Carolina when they are sent with public, taxpayer money to private schools that have no legal obligation to teach them anything.”

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/08/21/4086127/judge-finds-nc-voucher-program.html#storylink=cpy

An appeal to the judge’s ruling is expected.

 

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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