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NC Judge Rules School Vouchers Unconstitutional

A Superior Court judge ruled North Carolina's private school voucher program is unconstitutional on Thursday.

Judge Robert Hobgood heard the case in February, issuing a preliminary injunction against the "Opportunity Scholarship" program moving forward. That injunction was lifted in May by the NC Supreme Court.

Today's ruling again freezes taxpayer funds for the 4,200 families that qualified for the program, out of about 5,500 that applied, according to Elizabeth McDuffie with the NC Educational Assistance Authority. Low- and middle-income families that meet the income threshold and qualified for the program could have received up to $4,200 towards private school tuition starting this school year. Those funds were stopped earlier today.

It is unclear what will happen to the families who were expecting that money to go towards tuition this year. The program would have cost taxpayers nearly $18 million. Hobgood's ruling today included a permanent injunction, though the case is likely to be appealed.

The plaintiffs in the case include parents and educators from across the state. They say the voucher program will reduce the effectiveness of public schools for all students, and increase the gap between children and families from varying economic backgrounds.

"Public schools need to serve everybody," said Sasha Vrtunski, one of the plaintiffs. "We're taking away students from public schools, and then public schools will be left with the hardest kids to reach and without any funding, then they truly will be a failure. But we're not at that point yet, so we really have to support our public schools."

Those who support the vouchers were disappointed with today's decision.

Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said in a statement:

“Today’s ruling by a single trial court judge advances a clear political agenda ahead of the needs of thousands of North Carolina children. We are committed to providing students a sound, basic education – and that’s the very reason we don’t want to trap disabled and underprivileged children in low-performing schools that are failing to deliver on that responsibility. This ruling yet again frustrates parents who desperately want to provide what’s best for their kids, and I hope we will move swiftly to appeal.”


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