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There have been a lot of interesting — even amusing — reactions over on Right-Wing Avenue to last Friday’s judicial order halting the state’s unconstitutional school voucher program. House Majority Leader Paul Stam, for instance, wishfully and inaccurately dismissed the court’s action as a trifling matter that can easily be evaded with just a tiny tweak during the upcoming short session.  Meanwhile, the chief voice of the Koch Brothers in North Carolina, Americans for Prosperity, laughably termed the lawsuits brought by an array of concerned citizens and local Boards of Education as “demagoguery from a special interest group.”

But perhaps the most amazing response (and best example of unintended irony) thus far comes from the Pope-Civitas Institute, where a staffer wrote the following in response to the lawsuits and the Judge Hobgood’s preliminary injunction:

“When you can’t win at the ballot box,  enforce your will through the courts.  That’a (sic) well-known tactic of the left and that’s exactly the strategy on display in North Carolina.” Read More

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School-vouchersIn case you missed it over the weekend, be sure to check out Professor Jane Wettach’s excellent essay in Saturday’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer in which she exposes the enormous practical and constitutional problems with the school voucher scheme passed into law by conservative politicians last summer. The essay comes, of course,  in the aftermath of Friday’s very welcome court ruling that enjoined the implementation of the new law. Among other things, Wettach cites several damning statistics from a new report by the Children’s Law Clinic at Duke University Law School including:

  • A total of 696 private schools are registered with the State Division of Non-Public Education. Of those, 70 percent are religious and 30 percent are independent.
  • A quarter of the private schools have enrollments of fewer than 20 students; nearly another quarter have enrollments of fewer than 50 students. Read More
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DinosaurNorth Carolina’s Lt. Governor Dan Forest is no longer on the board of the group he helped found a few years back known as Faith Driven Consumer, but the group remains enmeshed in controversial issues with important political implications.

The group’s most recent crusade is to make sure that that the bosses at Paramount Studios, which is producing a multimillion dollar movie based on the Biblical figure Noah and the mythological story in which he saves all the creatures of the world from a flood, doesn’t allow the film to include any deviation from the what the group considers to be the literal truth. As Fox News reports, the group, which claims to speak for 46 million Christian consumers, released survey results showing that that “98 percent of faith-driven consumers are ‘unsatisfied with (the) Bible-themed movie which strays from Biblical message.’ The report suggested that ‘Noah’ could thus face ‘commercial challenges.’”

Such a scenario is in keeping with the past efforts of the Faith Driven Consumer to inject a conservative Christian worldview into modern American commerce. As reported here previously, the group has gone so far in past years as to dispense low marks to retailers (like the department store chain Sears) that feature lingerie models in their catalogs.

In the “Noah” example, the Faith Driven Consumer group has made it plain to Paramount that it doesn’t care for the notion that the film might attempt to superimpose modern, non-literal interpretations on the flood story. This is from an appeal on the group’s website: Read More

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Saying that challengers to North Carolina’s recently-enacted school voucher program had demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits, Superior Court Judge Robert H. Hobgood today stopped the program from moving ahead, pending a final resolution of two lawsuits currently before him.

State officials had already moved forward with the “Opportunity Scholarship Program” in the face of  those 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.

Attorneys for parties challenging the voucher program argued that the state constitution required funds for purposes of public education be used “exclusively” for free public schools.

But the state responded that only funds specifically earmarked for public education must be spent “exclusively” for free public schools. Here, state attorneys said, the General Assembly lawfully appropriated $10 million from the General Fund – not funds set aside for public education – for the Opportunity Scholarship program.  It was a new appropriation for a new program, they argued, placed within the budget for the state’s university system.

Attorneys for those challenging the program also argued that taxpayers would be harmed if the program was allowed to proceed while the cloud of unconstitutionality hung over its head. Once taxpayer funds were spent they could not be recovered, and the state might then be bound to recipients for funds coming from a program likely to be declared unconstitutional.

“The state would like to turn the tax spigot on until millions and millions are spent,” former state Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr told Hobgood.

Read more about the case here.

And read more about the voucher program in Lindsay Wagner’s excellent three-part series here, here and here.

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School-vouchersIf you haven’t already done so, check out today’s edition of the Fitzsimon File in which Chris highlights the most recent cynical efforts of anti-government crusaders to cloak their efforts to dismantle public education behind a protective phalanx of poor kids and their families. As Chris notes in discussing yesterday’s efforts by voucher supporters to resist a broad-based lawsuit against the state’s new “Opportunity Scholarships” program:

“It’s an understandable strategic decision voucher supporters are making, claiming that their only concern is improving the education of poor kids. They’d rather not talk about their anti-government ideology that’s behind their crusade to dismantle public education, one of the last government institutions that enjoys widespread support. Read More