Judge's ruling on school vouchers being appealed - WFLA News Channel 8

Judge's ruling on school vouchers being appealed

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

A ruling by a Wake County superior court judge that a state program to pay for private school vouchers is unconstitutional is being appealed.

Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, said Friday that the Institute for Justice filed an appeal Friday.

“We are not giving up!” Allison said in a statement. “We are extremely hopeful that our higher court will overturn the lower court's decision within days, not weeks, so that parents - and most importantly - our students can receive the assurance that philosophical differences will not disrupt our children's ability to receive a "sound, basic education" in the environment that works best for them.”

More than $720,000 is in limbo after Judge Robert Hobgood ruled Thursday that using taxpayer money to pay for private school vouchers is unconstitutional.

The State Educational Assistance Authority said $727,000 was to be sent to schools for 1,800 students who had qualified for opportunity grants but the payments were stopped after Hobgood's ruling.

The General Assembly set aside $10 million last year to give up to $4,200 each for up to 2,400 students.

But Hobgood said the program violates the state constitution's guarantee for students to have an opportunity to a sound basic education because the schools are not obliged to meet state curriculum requirements.

"The Opportunity Scholarships 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," Hobgood said.

It's also unconstitutional for public funds to go to privately run and managed schools, Hobgood said.

Matt Ellinwood of the North Carolina Justice Center said, “There really was a lack of accountability measures. So what we're worried about is that students are going to go from a lower performing public school or a place where they were struggling to another school where we wouldn't even know if they were struggling because we're not going to get any information about how students are doing.”

But Donna Moss, principal at Cathedral School in Raleigh, said, It's time for us in North Carolina to take a look at how we're funding education and if there's a different way or a better way. Status quo might not be the best way.”

The ruling came after teachers groups and many of the state's 115 school boards challenged whether the state can spend public money on K-12 tuition at private or religious schools.

Hobgood blocked the state voucher program in February until there could be a trial. The state Supreme Court then reversed the ruling in May and allowed implementation to go ahead.

The North Carolina Attorney General's Office has said it plans to appeal the decision.

To qualify for the scholarship, children must qualify for the federal free or reduced-price school lunch program, which has an income limit of about $44,000 for a family of four. The grants aren't available to students already attending private schools.

Copyright 2014 WNCN. All rights reserved.

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