In a press release by the North Carolina School Board of Education released by Elkin City Schools, it was noted that Judge Robert Hobgood ruled last week that the voucher program adopted by the General Assembly in 2013 violated several provisions of the North Carolina Constitution.
Hobgood permanently enjoined the state from implementing the program, stated the release.
In declaring the program unconstitutional, Hobgood said that it “would provide taxpayer funds to private schools without regard to whether these schools satisfy any substantive educational standards. Appropriating taxpayer funds to unaccountable schools does not accomplish a public purpose.”
A lawsuit brought by four North Carolina taxpayers, the North Carolina School Boards Association (NCSBA), and 71 local boards of education from across the state initiated the ruling.
In the ruling, Hobgood concluded, “beyond a reasonable doubt, that the program violated the State Constitution and stated that “the General Assembly is seeking to push at-risk students from low income families into non-public schools in order to avoid the cost of providing them a sound basic education in public schools …”
The requirement that students be provided the opportunity to receive a sound basic education arises from the North Carolina Supreme Court’s landmark 1997 decision in Leandro v. State of North Carolina, said Hobgood.
Also in his ruling the judge stated that the General Assembly “fails the children of North Carolina when they are sent with public taxpayer money to private schools that have no legal obligation to teach them anything. Without any such obligation, this appropriation is unconstitutional …”
The press release quoted Bob Orr of Poyner Spruill, the firm that represented the NCSBA, the school boards, and the individual plaintiffs.
In a statement Orr said, “We are pleased that Judge Hobgood agreed with our contentions about the unconstitutionality of this use of taxpayer money,” said Orr of Poyner Spruill, the firm that represented the NCSBA, the school boards, and the individual plaintiffs.
The NCSBA is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership association that represents all 115 local boards of education in the state and the Board of Education of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation.
Elkin City Schools Superintendent Dr. Randy Bledsoe added, “I am very supportive of the ruling I truly believe in individualized education for every student at the same time, you don’t want to see public school funding provided to private schools.”
The superintendent added that he remains hopeful some of the monies that were allocated for the voucher program and private school will be redistributed by public schools for public school education.
Bledsoe said the ECS Board of Education has discussed the voucher program in the past and is pleased with last weeks ruling that the voucher program was deemed unconstitutional.