N.C. school vouchers unconstitutional

Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood ruled Aug. 21 in Raleigh, N.C., that a 2013 law to use public money for tuition at private and religious schools violates the state constitution.

Under the Opportunities Scholarship program, which the ruling halted, low-income families would get up to $4,200 annually. The law made $10 million available to a maximum of 2,400 students. As of Aug. 21, 1,879 scholarships had been accepted.

“This upholds North Carolina’s long-standing commitment to public education. Public education creates productive citizens, a strong economy and a great democracy,” Yevonne Brannon of Public Schools First told the Raleigh News & Observer.

“Appropriating taxpayer funds to unaccountable schools does not accomplish a public purpose,” Hobgood said in his ruling. “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.”

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The New Hampshire Supreme Court upheld a law Aug. 28 that created a business education tax credit to fund scholarships to private schools. The unanimous decision vacated a lower court ruling that said giving scholarships to parochial school students was unconstitutional.

The bill was passed in 2012 by the Republican majority, which overrode then-Democratic Gov. John Lynch’s veto. Current Gov. Maggie Hassan, also a Democrat, told The Associated Press: “The voucher tax credit is bad public policy for public education in New Hampshire and our taxpayers, diverting millions of dollars in taxpayer money with no accountability or oversight to religious and private schools.”

The justices said the plaintiffs lacked standing and didn’t rule on the merits of the case. They also declared unconstitutional a 2012 law letting individuals sue even if they couldn’t show their rights were violated.

Businesses can donate to an independent scholarship organization in return for a credit on their taxes amounting to 85% of the donation. Republican Rep. William O’Brien said parents should be able to choose religious or secular education. “It will be up to them and not up to vested education industry interests trying to corral all students into failed government schools.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation