The North Carolina House voted yesterday to amend the state charter schools law to bar discrimination against children “with respect to any category protected under the United State Constitution or under federal law applicable to the states.” While the language was drawn hastily in the aftermath of Rep. Paul Stam’s embarrassing homophobic rant of the other day and would appear to include some potential wiggle room for creative bigots, it’s certainly a step forward.
That said, the House’s action (which still needs to be approved by the Senate and the Governor) serves to highlight another glaring problem in state education law — namely, the fact that the state’s new school voucher system not only allows such discrimination; it is based upon it.
As Raleigh’s News & Observer notes in an editorial this morning:
“The state’s new Opportunity Scholarship Program began this week and immediately showed why it shouldn’t begin at all.
More than 5,500 applicants named 440 private schools they hope to attend with the help of taxpayer dollars. Most of the applicants named a religious school as their first. Christian schools were the most common choice, but two of the top three named were Muslim schools.”
In other words, public education dollars will be going to directly to schools that do exactly what the House voted unanimously to bar for another set of publicly-funded schools yesterday — discriminate. One can attempt to prettify the whole thing by calling it “choice,” but it’s already been well-documented that, in addition to having religious tests (some even require a letter from one’s pastor), many of the voucher schools specifically reject LGBT children or those who have LGBT parents.
Unless and until lawmakers vote to bar discrimination by all schools that receive state education dollars, yesterday’s action should be branded for what it is: an inadequate and hypocritical half-measure