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Plaintiffs respond to Tillis, Berger’s plea to Supreme Court to put school voucher program back on course

The battle over school vouchers in North Carolina is now before the state Supreme Court, thanks to an emergency motion filed late Monday by attorneys on behalf of Speaker Thom Tillis, Senate leader Phil Berger and parents to allow the taxpayer-funded vouchers, ruled unconstitutional by a Superior Court judge last week, to be disbursed to private schools immediately while the fate of the program is decided.

Plaintiffs challenging the school voucher program — parents, educators, community members and school boards represented by the N.C. Justice Center, the North Carolina Association of Educators, and the N.C. School Boards Association – filed a response Tuesday morning to the motion now before the state’s highest court.

“[The defendants] implore the Court to put millions of taxpayer dollars at risk by turning on the spigot of public funds almost a month before the SEAA’s long-planned disbursement schedule, nullifying a decision by a senior trial judge entered after months of discovery and consideration of hundreds of pages of evidence and briefs,” said the plaintiffs’ response.

Tillis and Berger’s attorneys contend that because students are already in private schools and planning to use the school vouchers, those funds should be distributed—even though the program has been ruled unconstitutional and is under appeal.

But the Court of Appeals denied the defendants’ motion for an emergency stay earlier Monday, prompting the motion that is now before the Supreme Court.

There was one missing party in Monday’s Supreme Court filing, however – the state’s attorney general, which is the primary defendant in the case.

Earlier this year, Judge Hobgood halted the school voucher program, pending a final ruling. But then, too, the state’s attorney general did not seek a stay of his decision, citing the potential harm in disbursing taxpayer funds to private schools prior to the possibility of an unconstitutional ruling that would make the program illegal.

The defendant-intervenors in the case, on behalf of parents wishing to take advantage of the school vouchers, went ahead without the attorney general’s office at that time as well, and made a motion to the state Supreme Court to allow the program to continue. That request was granted back in May.

Attorneys for those challenging school vouchers, which the state program offers to approximately 2,400 students with $4,200 annually to send their children to private schools, have argued that the program funnels taxpayer dollars to unregulated and unaccountable private schools, 70 percent of which are religious institutions.

In his ruling last week, Hobgood recognized the state’s obligation to provide a “sound basic education” to the children attending public schools in North Carolina as mandated by the Supreme Court in its Leandro decision.

“The General Assembly cannot constitutionally delegate this responsibility to unregulated private schools by use of taxpayer opportunity scholarships to low income parents who have self-assessed their children to be at risk,” Judge Hobgood said.

Stay tuned for further developments.

3 Comments

  1. Sue Quirk

    August 26, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    I do not agree with my tax money being spent to send any child to a private school. We need to put that money into strengthening our public schools. I have a granddaughter going to public school because her parents could not afford to send her to the Catholic School they wanted to. These other children using our tax money to go to private schools is just not right! Tillis is just trying to save his butt in the upcoming senate race.

  2. John Steinsvold

    August 27, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    An Alternative to Capitalism (since we cannot legislate morality)

    Several decades ago, Margaret Thatcher claimed: “There is no alternative”.
    She was referring to capitalism. Today, this negative attitude still persists.

    I would like to offer an alternative to capitalism for the American people to consider.
    Please click on the following link. It will take you to my essay titled: “Home of the Brave?” which was published in the OPEDNEWS:

    http://www.opednews.com/articles/An-Alternative-to-Capitali-by-John-Steinsvold-130326-864.html

    John Steinsvold

    “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
    Pogo quotation by Walt Kelly.

  3. Robin

    August 29, 2014 at 9:19 am

    I hope and pray the supreme court rules for the vouchers. Why should I pay taxes to public schools when I pay for private. I think my tax dollar should go to private.