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Lawsuit Challenges Educational Opportunity

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school uniformTwo days ago, 25 plaintiffs, including Mike Ward, the former NC Superintendent of Public Instruction, filed a lawsuit in Wake County challenging North Carolina’s new “Opportunity Scholarship” program. The scholarships provide $4,200 to low income families and allow them the chance to attend a private school of their choice.  You can read the full story in the Charlotte Observer.

Essentially, the plaintiffs believe trapping a student in a school that doesn’t meet their needs is a superior idea to allowing parents and students increased opportunity and choice.

Americans for Prosperity weighed in on the lawsuit yesterday.  Their policy specialist, Donald Bryson, had this to say:

“This lawsuit is true demagoguery from a special interest group. While NCAE senior staff are raking in six-figure salaries and advancing this lawsuit, their membership are paying dues to help prevent low-income students from having increased educational options through private school choice. It is unconscionable that a group representing educators would file a lawsuit to prevent children in low-income families from going to the school of their parents’ choice.

“The State Constitution requires the General Assembly to maintain a ‘general and uniform system of free public schools.’ To my knowledge, the Opportunity Scholarship program begins in 2014 and our statewide public school system will continue to exist. The NCAE is attacking a type of voucher program that has been repeatedly held as constitutional in state and federal courts – particularly in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002).

“Our public school system provides an adequate education for hundreds of thousands of students every year. This program is designed to help those families who do not, financially, have a choice in their child’s education. An attack on this program is an attack on those families.”

The Opportunity Scholarship program was created as part of the North Carolina State Budget earlier this year. State lawmakers set aside $10 million in the budget to help pay private school tuition for about 2,500 students, starting in the 2014-15 school year. To be eligible, students must be currently be enrolled in public school and be eligible for free or reduced price lunches.

The appropriation for the Opportunity Scholarship program, in the 2014-15 Fiscal Year, makes up one-tenth of one percent of the Education portion of the State’s General Fund.

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