Leftist lawsuit says helping poor kids escape failing public schools is unconstitutional

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In North Carolina, a group of over two dozen plaintiffs filed a lawsuit this week challenging the constitutionality of the Opportunity Scholarship Program, a new vouchers program designed to provide a way out of failing schools for the state’s poorest children.

The sponsors of the lawsuit are the North Carolina Association of Educators, a large teachers union affiliated with the National Education Association, and the North Carolina Justice Center, a far-left outfit that supports increased funding for public schools, a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and, of course, higher taxes.

The vouchers provide up to $4,200 per year toward the tuition at a private school for students from families in households where the income level is less than 133 percent of the federal qualifying amount for the free and reduced lunch program.

The plaintiffs say the vouchers program unfairly takes money from public schools, according to a press release from the powerful teachers union.

“Vouchers for private schools are an affront to a state that has a long and cherished history of public education,” said Rodney Ellis, the union president and one of the 25 plaintiffs, in the statement.

The suit also contends that the vouchers program is unconstitutional because Article IX, Section 6 of the North Carolina’s state constitution stipulates that a “state school fund” “shall be faithfully appropriated and used exclusively for establishing and maintaining a uniform system of free public schools.”

The argument, such as it is, seems to go that lawmakers can therefore set aside no other, additional money for poor kids trapped in public schools that are failing to educate them.

The vouchers program was passed by the state legislature with bipartisan support, notes Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC), a pro-school choice organization.

North Carolina’s General Assembly appropriated $10 million for the first year of the scholarship program, reports The News & Observer.

Advocates of the voucher program say the legal challenge has no merit.

“This lawsuit is nothing more than a desperate attempt by opponents of parent choice to cling to an unacceptable status quo for low income students to stay in schools that are simply not working for them,” said PEFNC president Darrell Allison in a press release.

The advocacy group observed that figures from North Carolina’s education department show almost 70 percent of the state’s low-income students fail to meet annual academic proficiency standards.

The political left in North Carolina has gone off the deep end over the prospect of state aid for poor kids. In addition to this week’s lawsuit, the Democratic state’s superintendent of public instruction, previously warned that private school vouchers could fund schools run by fanatical terrorists who will churn out little terrorists hell-bent on the destruction of America. (RELATED: North Carolina Democrat warns private school vouchers will lead to terrorist kids)

“There is nothing in the legislation that would prevent someone from establishing a school of terror,” the elected Democrat, June Atkinson, declared while speaking at the state school board association’s public policy conference earlier this month.

Over the summer, Atkinson suggested that the state’s entire public school system should exempt teachers from the burden of personal state income taxes. (RELATED: North Carolina’s state education boss wants to exempt teachers from income tax)

North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program will begin accepting applications in February for the school year starting in the fall of 2014. This webpage from the PEFNC provides more information for prospective applicants.

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