First impressions of the voucher lawsuit

I am not an attorney.  I don’t play one on TV.  I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.  I didn’t fight the law, only to see it win.  You get the idea.

But I was interested to read comments from an attorney for the plaintiffs challenging North Carolina’s voucher programs for special needs and low-income children,

Burton Craige, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said similar lawsuits against voucher programs have been successful in some states and unsuccessful in others. But, he said, the language in North Carolina’s constitution is clear that public funds “are to be used exclusively for establishing and maintaining a uniform system of free public schools.”

The word “exclusively” is very unusual in a state constitution, Craige said. “We’re going to ask [the court] to declare that ‘exclusively’ means exclusively.”

The word “exclusively” is used three times in the education section (Article IX) of the state constitution.  It is used once in Section 6: State school fund and twice in Section 7: County school fund; State fund for certain moneys.  My non-lawyer interpretation is that “exclusively” refers to money deposited into state and county school funds.  Neither type of school fund receives money earmarked for the state’s voucher programs.

Interestingly, state money is used to employ private providers of driver education.  Chapter 115C-215 of the NC General Statutes states, “The State Board of Education shall adopt rules to permit local boards of education to enter contracts with public or private entities to provide a program of driver education at public high schools.”  And if I am not mistaken, some private schools receive state funds to support driver education programs.

In addition, state law allows school districts to use public money to “place a child in a private school that is approved to provide special education and that can provide the child an appropriate education.” (Chapter § 115C-109.9).  Moreover, state law directs districts to provide transportation to students placed in a private school by the district (See Chapter 115C-242).

Again, my knowledge of North Carolina education law is limited, so do not consider these musings to be a definitive defense of the voucher law.  I’ll leave that to the professionals.

Terry Stoops / Vice President for Research and Director of Education Studies

Terry Stoops is the Vice President for Research and Director of Education Studies at the John Locke Foundation. Before joining the Locke Foundation, he worked as the progra...

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