Applicant families and private schools urged not to be discouraged and move ahead as planned, expect payment to come a little later
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
August 21, 2014
Proponents of North Carolina’s new Opportunity Scholarships urged applicant families and private school authorities not to be discouraged by a Superior Court judge’s second ruling against the program on Thursday.
“While we are disappointed with this ruling, it was not unexpected,” said N.C. House Speaker Pro Tem Paul Stam (R-Wake).
“It was the same judge who ruled the same way in February. In May he was reversed by a Writ of Supersedeas from the State Supreme Court. We have no reason to think that anything has changed that would make the Appellate Court change its mind.”
It was Judge Robert Hobgood who deemed unconstitutional the state’s plan to award grants of up to $4,200 per child for tuition in non-public schools. His ruling — in which he accused the General Assembly of “seeking to push at-risk students from low-income families into non-public schools in order to avoid the cost of providing them a sound, basic education…” — was issued the same day that the first $730,000 in tuition money was set to be released for the benefit of roughly 360 students. More than 5,000 had applied for the assistance, earmarked for those in low-income families for whom the public school system was not working.
Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina President Darrell Allison said Thursday that there will be an expedited appeal filed to stay Judge Hobgood’s injunction, a move that would allow the program to continue until an ultimate ruling is reached.
“While this court decision might represent a temporary roadblock on the path towards educational freedom in North Carolina, I believe it’s just that — temporary,” Allison said.
“We’re going to continue to fight for a parent’s right to choose the educational setting that works best for their children – by any means necessary.”
He said the high number of applicants — more than twice what the Legislature had allowed for in its initially setting aside $10 million for 2,400 grants — shows how many families “desperately desire this program.”
Rep. Stam advised families who were chosen as recipients not to lose confidence in the program.
“If I were a parent whose child had been allocated a scholarship, I would send my child to school next week and tell her to study hard,” he said. “If I were a school that had admitted these students, I would welcome them with open arms expecting payment a bit later.”
The Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said his hope is that the appeal to be filed by the state Attorney General’s Office will be expedited, and the case settled in favor of parental choice.
“These scholarships are no panacea to education problems, but they are a step in the right direction because they give families a chance to choose a school that can meet their child’s needs,” Dr. Creech added. “As we’ve said before, North Carolinians have to ask ourselves if our tax dollars should fund ‘schools’ or if they should fund ‘education’? If the issue is about funding a child’s education, then the dollars should follow the child, resulting in more choice.”