CHCCS joins suit against state over vouchers

Jan. 11, 2014 @ 06:34 PM

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools has joined the lawsuit against North Carolina over controversial legislation that will use public funds for vouchers to private schools.
“I think that this is the right fight to be in,” said CHCCS school board member Mike Kelley. “It’s the wrong policy. I think this is in our interest.”
In a unanimous vote during Thursday night’s meeting, the board approved a N.C. School Board Association resolution adding the district to the list of plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the state questioning the constitutionality of the private school vouchers as part of the state budget.
A lawsuit was filed in December in by four taxpayers and the NCSBA in Wake County Superior Court challenging the constitutionality of the budget bill allowing for private school vouchers that use public funds.
The General Assembly passed legislation appropriating $10 million beginning with the 2014-15 school year and potentially up to $50 million annually for private school vouchers in future budget cycles.
A private school could receive up to $4,200 in public funds for each public schools student who enrolls in a private school
In addition to using public funds to finance private schools, the complaint claims that the bill violates the state constitution by not requiring private schools to adhere to any substantive educational standards. It also says schools are not required to have non-discriminatory admissions. In addition, the clomplain says, it creates a system of selective secondary educational opportunities, denies equal rights and diverts funds from the State School Fund.
“I think it’s a critical issue across the nation,” said board chair Jamezetta Bedford. “The evidence is there that it’s discriminatory.”
The board questioned whether the district would incur any costs for joining the suit. Board attorney Ken Soo said that the resolution outlines that NCSBA’s legal assistance fund will cover the litigation costs.
In an email from NCSBA executive director Ed Dunlap that was given to the board, the organization’s president and member of the Cleveland County board of education, Shearra Miller said, “this challenge raises important questions about the use of public funds and our commitment to North Carolina’s students.
“By diverting funding from the public schools, vouchers have the potential to significantly damage individual school systems, particularly in smaller districts,” Miller said. “Given all of these issues, the NCSBA board of directors felt strongly that the organization should raise these questions in court.”