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Judge blocks North Carolina's Opportunity Scholarship program

School Choice - Vouchers
School Choice - Vouchers
Photo credit: j neuberger via photopin cc

North Carolina County Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood blocked the state's new school voucher program, saying it unconstitutionally diverted money from public education to private schools, some of them religious schools.

The state's Opportunity Scholarship program, expands school choice in North Carolina by providing education scholarship grants of up to $4,200 per year for eligible children who choose to attend private school. The program is designed to give low-income families public funds to help pay private school tuition. It was passed by the state's Republican-controlled Legislature last year and had already begun operating.

About 5,500 students applied for the annual grants of up to $4,200 per child. More than 1,800 students were chosen by lottery have already accepted Opportunity Scholarships, but not all have enrolled in private schools.

Those supporting the so-called voucher program, say it offers low-income children a choice for a private-school education that better meets their individual needs after the public schools failed to do so. To be eligible, parents had to have their children enrolled in a public school and meet federal income requirements for their children to receive subsidized lunches.

The program was challenged in lawsuits by the N.C. Association of Educators and the N.C. Justice Center, a left-wing advocacy group, and the N.C. School Boards Association, which was joined by 71 of the state’s 115 school districts.

Previously, Judge Hobgood had granted the plaintiffs an injunction that halted the voucher funds from being distributed to students. But in May, the state Supreme Court overturned that injunction.

An appeal of Judge Hobgood's decision was filed on Friday. Among other things, the appeal seeks a stay in the judge's decision.

According to Reuters, school voucher supporters say voucher programs offer parents more choices on where to educate their children. About 20 states offer some form of school vouchers, with most of those programs having survived legal challenges. School vouchers have drawn criticism from some who claim they drain money from public schools and subsidize overtly religious education.


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