NC judge: Private school vouchers unconstitutional

By EMERY P. DALESIO

Associated Press

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RALEIGH — A new school voucher program was ruled unconstitutional Thursday by a judge who said taxpayer money should not be used for tuition to private or religious schools.

The scholarship program for low-income families was supposed to start this week, but is now on hold, Wake County Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood ruled. It was not immediately clear whether some of the money already distributed would have to be reimbursed.

Advocates said they planned to appeal.

Teachers groups and many of the state’s 115 school boards challenged whether the state can spend public money on K-12 tuition at private or religious schools. Those plaintiffs and the state’s taxpayers would be harmed if the program were allowed to continue, Hobgood said.

The vouchers pay for students to attend schools that are not obliged to meet state curriculum requirements, violating the state constitution’s guarantee for students to have an opportunity to a sound basic education, Hobgood said.

“The Opportunity Scholarships would provide taxpayer funds to private schools without regard to whether these schools satisfy any substantive educational standards. Appropriating taxpayer funds to unaccountable schools does not accomplish a public purpose,” Hobgood said.

It’s also unconstitutional for public funds to go to privately run and managed schools, Hobgood said.

Hobgood blocked the state voucher program in February until there could be a trial. The state Supreme Court reversed him in May and allowed implementation to go ahead.

The State Educational Assistance Authority, which was given the task of managing $10 million in government-funded scholarships to students who won a lottery for tuition assistance, planned to distribute the first $728,000 in tuition money for 363 students on Tuesday. An official with the state agency did not immediately respond to messages asking whether any of the money was disbursed.

In June, the state agency moved up the date to distribute tuition funding so that it could do it before Hobgood’s ruling. Educational assistance authority executive director Steven Brooks said the agency decided distributing the money sooner was better, not that they wanted to get out ahead of the judge.

The program’s supporters said they hoped an appeal would let the vouchers continue, said Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina.

“While this court decision might represent a temporary roadblock on the path towards educational freedom in North Carolina, I believe it’s just that — temporary,” Allison said in a statement. “We’re going to continue to fight for a parent’s right to choose the educational setting that works best for their children.”

Children seeking the scholarships must qualify for the federal free or reduced-price school lunch program, which has an income limit of about $44,000 for a family of four. The grants aren’t available to students already attending private schools.

The General Assembly set aside $10 million last year to give up to $4,200 each for up to 2,400 students.

Comments

The parent of every school

The parent of every school age child should receive a voucher. This voucher would be in the amount of funds allocated today per student in the public school system. The parent could then choose where to send their child to school be it public school, private, parochial school, academy. More charter schools would be founded. These schools, public and private would in essence compete for students. The schools that provide the best bang for the parent's buck --- the best schools will win out ---- but, it will force all schools to look at what they're doing and make improvements to try to attract more students if they want to stay in business.

Mr. Avnrutz

It is a travesty that your son was bullied here in the public schools of Elizabeth City. That is unacceptable. Schools districts should receive bully proof training and should be cognizant of when it is happening. If it is occurring, there should be punishment. I am sorry it happened and there is no excuse for it. I am not a part of the EC-Pasquotank Public Schools. I work for NCAE but I can tell you that I am sorry it happened to your son. There was no excuse for it and those teachers and administrators who allowed it to happen should have to explain why. Bullying is unacceptable in anyway shape or fashion. And sometimes bullies grow up to be adult bullies. Look at how Mr. Billy Layman bullies me on the TDA online. He has lost two elections here in Elizabeth City and he is a bitter old man who likes to bully people. He is arrogant and turns peoples' words around. I have been informed he contributes nothing positive and tears people down.

Another positive, uplifting blog

by Mr. NCAE, Mr. Clyde Dorsey Harris. We're still waiting for those salary/compensation figures you promised over a month ago. Still nothing but crickets.

Public Tax Monies Should Not Go

to Private Schools. It is unconstitutional. We public school educators take everyone's child. We do not have a choice.

Call it a refund, the administration did

Not many years ago, the current administration gave out 'refunds' to citizens, many of whom (such as my MIL), did actually pay taxes, due to their income level, and everyone applauded it. Now, people are asking for a voucher system, which would provide a possible path to a better economic outcome for their children. Instead of calling it a voucher system, let's simply make the tuition paid a deduction, or refund a percentage of their tax bill.

Call it a refund, the administration did

Not many years ago, the current administration gave out 'refunds' to citizens, many of whom (such as my MIL), did actually pay taxes, due to their income level, and everyone applauded it. Now, people are asking for a voucher system, which would provide a possible path to a better economic outcome for their children. Instead of calling it a voucher system, let's simply make the tuition paid a deduction, or refund a percentage of their tax bill.

From Tom Brokaw

"There is a place in America to take a stand: it is public education. It is the underpinning of our cultural and political system. It is the great common ground. Public education after all is the engine that moves us as a society toward a common destiny. It is in public education that the American dream begins to take shape."

It is obvious that

the concern is not what is best for a child, but who gets the money. By the way, I would much rather have my tax money go to education whether, private or public than stand behind someone dressed to the hilt, down to their manicured nails and toes buying $80 worth of Snow Crab Legs with a Snap Card.

Amen

and another Amen!

Choice

I agree............. parents should be able to make the decision about where their child attends school. However, I should not have to pay for them to send their child to a private or religious school. I'm already paying taxes for their child to attend a public school. Any parent who is not content with the public school is free to use THEIR OWN MONEY to buy the best education possible for their child/children.

And so are

those of us with children in private or religious schools paying taxes for those children going to public schools. Using your argument, why should I have to have the state tax money deducted from my pay be used for public education for your kids, when I don't believe it can give my kids the best education available? This is about taxpayers having a choice. Taxpayer dollars are already being spent to help kids going to religious or private colleges, including one right here in Elizabeth City. This is no precedent.

Note

This money is geared for parents meeting income guidelines who want to get their child out of a school that is not meeting their needs.

No Mr. freespeaker, that is the GOP Agenda

to create the wealthy ruling class and the under-educated poverty class. And our schools are not failing. We take whoever comes to us and we do our best to educate them. Many of my former students are very successful today and they were educated in public schools. You know that Mr. freespeaker!

Mr. Harris, I guess it's no

Mr. Harris, I guess it's no problem if a child is stuck in a poorly performing school - the child's parents can't afford a private school - so, it's fine with you to condemn this child to receiving a substandard education. With a voucher, the child's parents could enroll the child in a school that could provide the possibility of a decent education. But you, and the NCAE are more than happy to sacrifice this child. Shame on you all.

No, Mr. Harris

My son was bullied in both the 5th grade and the 6th grade right here in good old Elizabeth City, so we chose to put him in a 'private' school, run through a church, where such activity was not allowed, condoned or excused (as were the attacks on my son in the public schools). So, not only were my tax dollars supporting the public schools where my son was assaulted, but I was, admittedly by my choice, in defense of my son, also shelling out money I could ill afford to give him an education in a safe environment. I would not be eligible under this voucher program, but I supported it, regardless, in the hope the program would expand, to the point where all I would receive were some of the tax dollars I'd already paid in.

Mr. Harris - many public

Mr. Harris - many public school systems are failing miserably. Look at Halifax county for example. Oh, and I'm sure many of your former students are not so successful.

OK, you heard it right here.

Our public schools are not failing says Mr. Clyde Dorsey Harris, Mr. NCAE. I say wake up and smell the coffee. How about some statistics to back that up Mr. Clyde Dorsey? I won't hold my breath. We're still waiting for the your salary/compensation numbers you promised over a month ago. It's been nothing but crickets.

I say Mr. Lehmann, stop

I say Mr. Lehmann, stop speaking so poorly about public education until you have actually walked in the shoes of an educator. If I am correct, someone had to teach you to read and write and fly for the military. Was that a teacher? Do you EVER have anything to say that is positive? Really....find the good in things instead of ALWAYS being so negative. When is the last time you stepped foot into a public school?

Bill, consider the source

No leader wants to admit or concede to failure. Even Adolf Hitler, and I'm sure to hear lot of flak by using the comparison, never conceded to defeat until his country was in ruins and Berlin was being overrun. Even then, he ordered phantom armies and all German people to hold it to the last man. At the very end, he took the cowards way out, suicide, leaving a destitute people and country at the mercy of the victors. Gee, kinda sounds like an upcoming repeat with our present administration in place! As the saying goes, "There are none so blind, as those who WILL NOT see!".

The North Carolina

Constitution makes this case very different from those in other states. Sending a child to private school is a choice as is homeschooling. If you make those choices, you chose to forgo taxpayer subsidies. That being said, I think the is an argument for the state to pay for certain things such as the mandatory standardized testing.

You're Right matt23!

It's unconstitutional for public tax monies to fund private schools. Make sure you vote in November 2014! Thank you for your response.

You are, respectfully, wrong Mr. Harris.

Taxpayer dollars are already being spent at private and religious schools at the secondary level, including one right here in town. I too am waiting for your promised explanation about those huge NCAE salaries being paid. Are you worried about our kids, teachers and schools, or are you more worried that the money is drying up from the teachers who with their NCAE dues pay your leaderships incredible salaries and lifestyle and are now finding out what their money is really being used for and bolting from your club? It is a fair question Mr. Harris. Inquiring minds want to know. As a footnote, one judge has ruled this unconstitutional. He did so once before. So before you gleefully jump for joy over this one judge's decision, I think it best to wait for the ruling from the Court of Appeals and perhaps the state Supreme Court. They overturned this same ruling by this same judge in May. They may do so again.

I agree with the judge my tax

I agree with the judge my tax money should NOT be used to fund private school. If you want your child in private school then pay for it.

AMEN!

AMEN!

That is very congenial of you matt23.

Your support for forcing those who have no hope for paying for their own education into failing public education is noted.

Those who would benefit the most are paralyzed by the liberal fear broadcast. They fall for the tainted message everytime.

However you want my tax money to send your kid to school and that is O.K. Don't use the trite argument about tax money paying for things others don't want. It doesn't work. The diverted tax money would be used for education, a good education.

Point on kz001!

You are absolutely right on target with your comment!!!!! A private school education is light years ahead of public school. That's the reason liberals don't want it. Their agenda is to "dumb down" the general population to eventually create 2 separate social classes, the ruling elite and the under-educated poverty stricken.

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