By Rep. Paul Stam
December 17, 2013
RALEIGH – Last week saw three attacks on North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarships. These scholarships provide $4,200 for low-income parents who choose private over public education. For a complete description of that program please see my PowerPoint click here and Misconceptions click here.
First, on December 9, 2013 the NCAE and the left-wing NC Justice Center filed suit to stop the scholarships. The suit itself is a long essay on the perceived virtues of public education over private education. The entire legal argument is that under Article IX, Section 6 of the State Constitution money appropriated to the public schools (K-12) cannot be diverted to private schools. Yet the money for these Opportunity Scholarships was never appropriated to the public schools in the first place but to the State Education Assistance Authority. It has been in business for decades and primarily administers college loans and grants.
Then came NC Policy Watch and its Chris Fitzsimon, aghast that a private school might have its own admission policy. Fitzsimon’s column was broadcast all over North Carolina and argued that state tax money should never go to schools that discriminate. That is curious. For the last 38 years the state has been providing legislative tuition grants and need-based scholarships to 35 private 4-year colleges. These colleges discriminate in their admission policies for all sorts of reasons. But one stands out. Three of these schools have always blatantly discriminated against men. Meredith College, Bennett College and Salem College do not admit men at all. Two other colleges received these funds for decades before admitting men – Queens College and Peace College. We have not heard a peep out of Fitzsimon and NC Policy Watch claiming that this discrimination based on sex was immoral, illegal or unconstitutional. Most of us are rather proud that our tax money furthers the education of tens of thousands of young women.
And then the Superintendent of Public Instruction, June Atkinson, spoke to the State School Board Association’s Public Policy Conference in Wilmington. Local NBC affiliate, WECT reported that she stated, “with the voucher legislation that we have we could be in dangerous territory as far as taxpayer’s dollars going to private schools….There is nothing in the legislation that would prevent someone from establishing a school of terror”.
What would allow and inspire private schools to run schools of terror? There are hundreds of state and federal laws that prohibit terrorist acts, terrorist training and material support to terrorists. All of these laws apply to private schools as well as public schools. There are 700 private schools in North Carolina today. Does she have information that any one of them is promoting terror, teaching terror or engaging in terror?
Apparently she thinks it is taxpayer funding that will enable some of the 700 private schools to begin classes on suicide bombing for North Carolina’s private schools. But if it is public funding that enables this kind of training there are thousands of public schools, (including 700 high schools) that get complete funding right now from the taxpayer. If funding is the missing ingredient does she find terrorist training camps in the public schools? I cannot find them. Some schools have gangs that terrorize other students but in no case is this the policy or the action of the public school itself. Quite to the contrary. Public schools make every effort to fight terrorism and gang activity. As do private schools, of course.
Expect more wild claims in the days to come.