Children are the ones who suffer, says Ex. Dir. Of NC Christian School Association
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
April 10, 2014
Disappointed but even more determined — that’s the response of parents and private school officials who had anticipated being able to take advantage of the state’s Opportunity Scholarship Program created last July to help low-income and working-class families provide better educational options for their children beginning this fall. The Court of Appeals ruled April 3 that a preliminary injunction on the program issued by a Wake County Superior Court judge in February would remain in place, sending the case to the N.C. Supreme Court.
“While I am disappointed by the Court of Appeals decision to reject the parents’ petition to lift the injunction, I believe that the program and, more importantly, the parents who applied for this program from across the state will ultimately prevail,” said Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina.
“When the General Assembly enacted the Opportunity Scholarship Program, it allocated only 2,400 student spaces. Over 5,500 student applications were received from 95 counties in just a 25-day period.”
He said the overwhelming response from families across the state demonstrates Opportunity Scholarships’ broad appeal and that parents deserve greater educational options.
Dr. Joe Haas, executive director of the North Carolina Christian School Association, said students are the ones most impacted by the courts’ continued stalling.
“While these legal shenanigans are going on, the pawns in these games are the children,” said Haas. “It’s disappointing and unfortunate that these kinds of games are being played.”
The Opportunity Scholarship program, championed by Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake) among other lawmakers, set aside $10 million to be administered by the State Education Assistance Authority via grants of up to $4,200 per year for eligible children who wish to attend private schools. Despite bipartisan support, the new law came under attack immediately by the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) and the N.C. Justice Center, who have claimed it violates the state constitution by diverting public education funds to private schools. However, as Stam has pointed out, the money for the scholarships was never appropriated to public schools but to the SEAA, which administers college loans and grants.
Opponents have argued that state tax money should not go to schools that have admission policies that might limit who can attend. But, crafters of the law have reminded them that for nearly four decades the state has provided legislative tuition grants to nearly three dozen private, four-year colleges, institutions which discriminate in their admissions policies for a variety of reasons, including gender, as at least three of them are women’s schools.
Haas said the arguments made against the scholarships in court hearings were not mentioned when the legislation was being hashed out in the General Assembly.
“It’s also interesting and should be noted that opponents are not attacking the special needs scholarships, which are set up the same way, and neither are they attacking the grants for students attending non-public institutions of higher education,” Haas said. “This proves the inconsistency of their arguments.”
He said private Christian schools, which were expecting more students, depending on which qualified applicants were chosen via a lottery to receive the initial grants, will have to rethink their plans for the fall.
“This makes it more difficult for them to plan,” Haas said. “But the ones who are hurt the most by this are the children. That’s what really bothers me.”
Even so, proponents of the Opportunity Scholarships are hopeful the Supreme Court will move quickly to take up the case.
“There are valid reasons why these parents have applied in such strong numbers, and it is because the current public schools that they are assigned to are not adequate” Allison said.
“We must as a state do better for these parents, and we must do so now…. Justice delayed is justice denied.”