Backers of private school vouchers won a huge victory Thursday as the North Carolina Supreme Court narrowly endorsed a program that allows public school money to be spent providing vouchers to attend private schools.
North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship program, created in 2013, allows for up to $4,200 per family to help pay for private school tuition. The scholarships are only available to low-income families, with the threshold pegged to 133 percent of the income required to qualify for free and reduced-price school lunches.
Demand for the program has been high, as only 2,400 scholarships are available and more than twice that number have applied, necessitating the use of a lottery system.
Shortly after the program’s creation, a coalition of public school teachers, parents, and school administrators sued, claiming the voucher law unconstitutionally supported religious schools and failed to spend public money on an exclusively public purpose, as required by the Constitution.
Writing for a 4-3 majority, Chief Justice Mark Martin said otherwise, overruling a lower court that had struck down the program.
“Our review is limited to a determination of whether plaintiffs have demonstrated that the program legislation plainly and clearly violates our constitution,” Martin wrote. “Plaintiffs have made no such showing in this case.”
The decision means that students will be able to receive vouchers in the upcoming school year.
National advocates for school choice have been quick to praise the ruling. (RELATED: Nevada Enacts Country’s Biggest-Ever School Choice Program)
“With more than double the applications for scholarships in the first year of the program – approximately 5,500 applications for 2,400 scholarships – parents are making it abundantly clear that they want and demand more power over their children’s education,” said Kara Kerwin, president of the pro-voucher Center for Education Reform, in a statement sent to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “This is a giant step in the right direction for parent empowerment in North Carolina.”
The ruling is a big win for voucher supporters, especially as it helps make up for a ruling in Colorado in June which struck down a major voucher program in that state. (RELATED: Anti-Catholic Law Torpedoes Colorado School Voucher Program)
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