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School-vouchersThis morning’s editorial in the Fayetteville Observer takes a rather charitable view toward parents who signed their children up for North Carolina’s new school voucher plan and then found themselves without the subsidy once Judge Robert Hobgood rightfully struck down the program as blatantly unconstitutional. The paper is okay with last week’s Court of Appeals ruling that the state should go ahead and disburse the money to the private schools in which the parents enrolled their kids.

Reasonable minds can differ on this generous take; after all, it’s the private schools (which knew the risks) that are really out the money. But the paper is right that, assuming this is a one-time deal, the damage will be minimal. The remainder of editorial is largely spot on, however, with its take on the voucher program more generally and going forward:

In his earlier ruling against the program, Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood said it not only gave tax dollars to non-public schools, but established no standards for the schools to which the money would go.

Friday’s decision wisely allows the children already enrolled to continue through this school year. There’s no point in penalizing families who believed they were part of a legitimate state program.

But lawmakers should stop hoping for a court to read the constitution crossed-eyed and discern something that isn’t there. The General Assembly should prepare for the rejection of Opportunity Scholarships.

Hobgood’s ruling also spelled out the way legislators can fix this: “The expenditure of public funds raised by tax action to finance the operation of privately operated, managed and controlled schools … would require a constitutional amendment approved by the vote of the citizens of North Carolina.”

To preserve Opportunity Scholarships, stop pretending and begin the amendment process. And also include standards to hold participating private schools accountable.

Read the rest of the editorial by clicking here.

Commentary

School vouchersIn case you missed it, be sure to check out the lead story this morning over on the main Policy Watch site by Prof. William Snider, head of the Neuroscience Center at the the UNC School of Medicine: “Will voucher students learn biology?” 

If you read through the thoughtful, detailed and quite generous essay, you’ll learn that the answer to the title question is quite clearly and regrettably “No chance.”

As Snider explains, while the book certainly includes some scientifically valid material, it is also chock full of blatant falsehoods and fundamentalist Christianity masquerading as science. Not surprisingly, it attacks the evolution as “a retreat from science” and makes the claim that: “Since the day that Darwinism invaded the classroom, God’s glory has been hidden from students.”

There are numerous other falsehoods in the book that would , if more widely made a part of American science education, grievously handicap the nation’s students and its future. As Prof. Snider sums things up:

“In sum, the A Beka text as a central component of a high school biology curriculum would be suspect if it were evaluated by a state board of education. It would fail because of confusing science and religion, for misstating the theory of evolution, and because it compares unfavorably with other texts in not fully presenting modern advances in cell biology and genetics. It is difficult to envision the justification for using state funds to support curricula that do not prepare students for the modern workplace.”

Let’s hope that exposés like Snider’s continue to be spread far and wide as North Carolina continues to wrestle with the notion of using public funds to underwrite this kind of educational malpractice.

Read Snider’s entire essay by clicking here.

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School vouchers

In a one-sentence order released today, the state Supreme Court overturned a lower court order blocking the state’s voucher program pending further review and, per an additional ruling as noted on the court docket, agreed to hear the case.

In April, the state Court of Appeals had denied the request by parents who intervened in the school voucher case to delay a stay of the program entered by Superior Court Judge Robert H. Hobgood in February — a request which, if granted, would have effectively allowed that program to move forward while the court considered any such appeal.

Cynthia Perry and Gennell Curry, parents who support the state’s newly-enacted Opportunity Scholarship program, joined the lawsuit challenging its constitutionality with Hobgood’s permission, granted shortly before he halted the program pending a hearing on its merits.

The state did not appeal Hobgood’s preliminary ruling, but Perry and Curry did, contending that their right to “direct the education of their children” would be harmed by the court’s delaying implementation of the voucher program, which state officials had already moved forward with despite the  lawsuits.  At least some of the $400,000 budgeted for administration of the program had already been spent, and more than 4,000 applications for vouchers received.

The court’s actions today mean that the program can move forward in the interim while the justices consider the merits of claims challenging it on the merits.

In a related ruling, the court also dismissed as moot the motion by House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Phil Berger to intervene in the case.

Check back for further developments.

Uncategorized

The state Court of Appeals today denied the request by parents who intervened in the school voucher case to delay a stay of the program entered by Superior Court Judge Robert H. Hobgood in February — a request which, if granted, would have effectively allowed that program to move forward while the court considered any such appeal.

Cynthia Perry and Gennell Curry, parents who support the state’s newly-enacted school voucher program, joined the lawsuit challenging its constitutionality with Hobgood’s permission, granted shortly before he halted the program pending a hearing on its merits.

The state did not appeal Hobgood’s preliminary ruling, but Perry and Curry did, contending that their right to “direct the education of their children” would be harmed by the court’s delaying implementation of the voucher program, which state officials had already moved forward with despite the  lawsuits.  At least some of the $400,000 budgeted for administration of the program had already been spent, and more than 4,000 applications for vouchers received.

With the Court of Appeal’s order, here, the school voucher program remains suspended pending further court action.