I keep hearing opponents and advocates of Opportunity Scholarships – aka vouchers – say that the plain language of the N.C. Constitution is on their side.
The thing is, the section of the Constitution they are using – Article IX Section 6 – is not written in plain, simple English.
The provision contains one 140-word sentence. Folks, a 140-word sentence is not plain, nor is it simple.
That one sentence contains three semicolons and 12 commas. The word “and” appears in the sentence 10 times. Perhaps they could have made the provision more complicated if they tried really hard.
Read Article IX Section 6 for yourself:
The proceeds of all lands that have been or hereafter may be granted by the United States to this State, and not otherwise appropriated by this State or the United States; all moneys, stocks, bonds, and other property belonging to the State for purposes of public education; the net proceeds of all sales of the swamp lands belonging to the State; and all other grants, gifts, and devises that have been or hereafter may be made to the State, and not otherwise appropriated by the State or by the terms of the grant, gift, or devise, shall be paid into the State Treasury and, together with so much of the revenue of the State as may be set apart for that purpose, shall be faithfully appropriated and used exclusively for establishing and maintaining a uniform system of free public schools.
Plaintiffs in the case argue that the section of the Constitution says that taxpayer funds are to be used “exclusively” for public schools. But notice that neither “tax” nor “taxpayer” appear in that section. “Revenue” does, in reference to “so much of the revenue of the State as may be set apart for that purpose.”
Words get interchanged a lot. Sometimes, they shouldn’t.