North Carolinians File Suit Against the State Over Unconstitutional Voucher Program

Next month, the school voucher appeal hearing will move forward with the NC State Supreme Court. It's been a long journey since late 2013, when 25 plaintiffs from across the state filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the school voucher law passed by the General Assembly during the 2013 legislative session. The large and diverse group of plaintiffs who joined in the lawsuit, sponsored by the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) and the North Carolina Justice Center, include such educational leaders as former Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Ward and former Shaw University president John Lucas, as well as parents, teachers, members of the clergy, and other community leaders.

In this video, the latest in a series presented by the NC Justice Center and the NC Association of Educators, the Fitzsimmons family explains why public schools are vital — and why voucher-funded schools won't serve everyone. Brian and Katherine's son Liam, who has autism, was able to benefit from Wake County Public Schools early intervention programs at the age of three. "The diversity of resources that we were able to get through Wake County Public Schools is unmatched when comparing the system to other private institutions," Brian said. "The fact of the matter is that private schools in North Carolina have every ability and every right to discriminate based on whatever class you can come up with."

Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, also a plaintiff, is the pastor at the Clinton Tabernacle AME Zion Church in Hickory, where he is also a member of the Board of Education for the local public schools. In this video, Rev. Spearman talks about the importance of public schools, and how voucher programs can be harmful to students and their communities. "I am a product of public education and I thank God for the education I have received," Rev. Spearman says. "Education, as far as I'm concerned, is key to progress. Without education there is no progress." Click below to watch the full video.

VOUCHER LAWSUIT TIMELINE

  • OCTOBER 10: The North Carolina State Supreme Court bypassed the Court of Appeals to take up the fight over whether or not North Carolina’s new school voucher program is constitutional
     
  • SEPTEMBER 19: North Carolina Court of Appeals ordered the state to disburse school vouchers to current recipients, ruling that while the case is being appealed, students who have been already granted school vouchers can use taxpayer dollars at private schools.
     
  • AUGUST 21: Judge Robert H. Hobgood ruled that North Carolina's voucher program violates the state’s constitution. “The General Assembly fails the children of North Carolina when they are sent with public taxpayer money to private schools that have no legal obligation to teach them anything,” Hobgood said.
     
  • FEBRUARY 21: Judge Hobgood granted a preliminary injunction halting North Carolina's unconstitutional voucher program. The judge found that failure to grant the injunction could cause irreparable harm. Judge Hopgood further found that a lawsuit filed by the Justice Center and allied groups was likely to succeed on its merits, supporting the need for an injunction halting the program. We are grateful for this finding, which will help North Carolina's students and education system. We look forward to continuing with the legal process.

BACKGROUND

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INFOGRAPHICS

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