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Private School Vouchers Unconstitutional, Judge Rules

Flickr/Seth Sawyers

A judge has ordered the permanent halt of a program designed to give low-income families taxpayer money to pay for tuition at private schools. Wake County Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood cited several examples in ruling that the law is unconstitutional. 

WFAE’s Lisa Miller reported on the case during All Things Considered. Here's her conversation with host Mark Rumsey.

MR: Lisa, why did the judge find these vouchers, which lawmakers call "Opportunity Scholarships", unconstitutional? 

LM: The judge delivered his ruling from the bench today and it was strongly-worded. He gave several reasons.  For one, he said the vouchers send public money to privately run schools that don’t have to meet state standards.  His ruling was captured here by WRAL TV.

RH: The General Assembly by enacting OSP legislation for the expenditure of public funds for private schools without substantive standards to ensure that the promised public good is actually provided cannot be for a public purpose. 

LM: Hobgood also said the law that establishes these vouchers fails to maintain the right of the people to what he calls "the privilege of education" by siphoning money from public to private schools.  And he says this money goes to schools, which discriminate on account of religion. 

MR: So where does this leave all those students who were going to use these vouchers this year?

LM: They will have to change their plans.  There are about 2,400 of them.  That is unless the Attorney General’s office and others pushing for the program can get the state Supreme Court to act.  Here’s Darrell Allison.  He’s president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina. 

DA: Within the next 24-48 hours we’re going to be issuing a motion to overturn this injunction because we literally have kids and schools in limbo because they’ve already elected their decision. 

LM: A spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office says the state plans to appeal too.  Supporters of the program say it gives low-income parents another shot at making sure their children get a good education, especially if they believe their public schools are failing them.   

MR: The state planned to distribute $10 million  to private schools through this program.  How much of that has been paid?

LM: Well, those payments were supposed to begin going out last week.  But there was a technical glitch and they were instead scheduled for this afternoon.  Those did not end up going out. So none of that has been paid. 

MR: Thanks, Lisa.

LM: Thank you.