Monday, July 27, 2015

North Carolina Supreme Court Upholds School Voucher Program

In Hart v. State of North Carolina, (NC Sup. Ct., July 23, 2015), the North Carolina Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision reversed the trial court and upheld against constitutional attack the state's Opportunity Scholarship Program which offers some low-income students scholarships to attend private schools. The majority held that the state constitutional provision on the state school fund was intended "to protect the 'State school fund' in order to preserve and support the public school system, not to limit the State’s ability to spend on education generally." The provision requiring "a general and uniform system of free public schools" also does not bar the state's voucher program:
The uniformity clause applies exclusively to the public school system and does not prohibit the General Assembly from funding educational initiatives outside of that system.
The majority went on to hold that the appropriations for vouchers satisfy the public purpose requirement, and that taxpayer plaintiffs lack standing to  assert religious discrimination claims on behalf of students. Justices Hudson, Easley and Ervin dissented. AP reports on the decision.

The court also issued a short opinion in a companion case, Richardson v. Staterelying on its holding in Hart.