The Charlotte Observer
May 14, 2014
Supreme Court Lets Voucher Program Proceed
T. Keung Hui
North Carolina parents can plan to use taxpayer money to send
their children to private schools this fall, even as the constitutionality
of the new state program is debated in court.
a one-sentence ruling Wednesday, the N.C. Supreme Court issued
a temporary stay against a lower courts preliminary injunction
putting the voucher program on hold for the past three months.
Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood had sided with opponents
of the program who argued that it should be frozen while the
lawsuits are heard.
new ruling means, at least for now, the state can go ahead with
providing schools as much as $4,200 in taxpayers money
to help parents pay their childrens private-school tuition.
The program has drawn so much interest that a lottery will be
held to award the vouchers.
can do the lottery and decide on the scholarships while we argue
the case, said Renée Flaherty, an attorney for
the Institute for Justice, a Libertarian law firm representing
parents seeking the vouchers.
ruling was lauded by state Republican legislative leaders who
had backed the program.
Supreme Court made the right decision today, and I am pleased
that thousands of low-income children across North Carolina
will have the opportunity to attend a school that best meets
their needs in the coming school year, Senate President
Pro Tem Phil Berger, a Rockingham County Republican, said in
a written statement.
of the voucher program reacted with a mixture of disappointment
are disappointed by the Supreme Courts decision,
Edwin Dunlap Jr., executive director of the N.C. School Boards
Association, said in a written statement. The prudent
thing would have been to answer these important constitutional
questions before the state started spending public money on
Jewell, vice president of the N.C. Association of Educators,
said the group looked forward to persuading the court to eliminate
the program permanently.
feel that the program is not only unconstitutional but is also
a reckless use of money, he said.
year, the state legislature set aside $10 million for the program,
enough to give about 2,400 students opportunity scholarships.
To be eligible, parents have to currently have their children
in a public school and meet federal income requirements for
their children to receive subsidized lunches.
state had received more than 5,500 applications. Families identified
which private schools they wanted to attend, with religious
schools being among the top choices.
N.C. Association of Educators and the N.C. Justice Center filed
one suit against the voucher program. Another suit was filed
by the N.C. School Boards Association, which was joined by 71
of the states 115 school districts, including Chapel Hill-Carrboro
and Chatham, Durham and Orange counties.
February, Hobgood issued a preliminary injunction, saying the
program was likely unconstitutional. The injunction
prevented the state from accepting more applications and holding
parents who want to use vouchers asked the N.C. Court of Appeals
to lift the legal freeze. But the Court of Appeals decided in
April not to lift Hobgoods injunction, putting the ability
of families to get vouchers for the coming school year in doubt.
addition to letting the voucher program proceed, the Supreme
Court directed the Court of Appeals to hear arguments on whether
the preliminary injunction should have been issued. Those appellate
arguments will take place while the merits of the original case
remain to be debated in Hobgoods courtroom.