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Teachers sue N.C. over vouchers
Educators contend violation of constitution
 
Published Wednesday, December 11, 2013 8:48 pm
by Stephanie Carrol Carson, N.C. News Service

RALEIGH – Education advocates in North Carolina on Wednesday filed suit against the state, calling the school legislation passed by the General Assembly in the last session unconstitutional and saying it will undermine student success by undercutting public schools. 

They're referring to legislation that authorized vouchers valued up to $4,200 to pay for part of the tuition at a private school. Rodney Ellis, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, says that will siphon needed money from public schools already trying to do more with less.

“The actions that they took were extreme," he maintains. "And it forces us to take extreme measures in order to ensure the safety and quality of public education in North Carolina. So extreme is as extreme does.”

The lawsuit was filed in Wake County and seeks an injunction to prevent the voucher laws from going forward. So far lawmakers have appropriated $10 million for the program, but took $11 million out of the public school budget to pay for the program. Voucher supporters say they're meant to give parents more choices in areas where public schools are struggling to perform.

Ann McColl, general counsel for NCAE, says that with North Carolina ranking 46th in the country in school funding and 48th in teacher pay, the state doesn't have money to waste. 

“The concern is that this could be hundreds of millions of dollars over time,” she points out. “We don't have money to take out of the system for a new program that doesn't have research to support it.”

North Carolina's constitution says that public monies are to be used exclusively for free public schools, which McColl says places the state in violation of the document.

Ellis says his group and the North Carolina Justice Center, a co-sponsor of the suit, wish the state would work with them to fix the existing system, instead of spending time in the courts. 

“It really takes everybody working collectively and collaboratively to ensure quality education for every child,” he says. “And that means bringing parents, educators, members of the community, community leaders and elected officials to the table to improve education for everyone in this state.”

 

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