No ‘public purpose’ in school vouchers

Aug 5, 2015 by

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By Elizabeth Haddixand Mark Dorosin –

The N.C. Supreme Court’s vote to overturn the ruling that the education voucher program is unconstitutional means taxpayer funds will now flow freely to schools that are not required to have trained or certified teachers, any identified or minimum curriculum, any accreditation or criminal background checks for employees and that can discriminate on the basis of religion.

And as the state continues to struggle to meets its obligation to provide all students with a “sound basic education,” millions of dollars of public money will now go to support schools that are not subject to the fundamental education mandates of our state constitution.

The 4-3 decision was grounded in the determination that despite sending state funds to private entities, the voucher program is somehow consistent with the public purpose doctrine of the state constitution, which requires that with the expenditure of state funds, “the ultimate gain must be the public’s, not that of an individual or private entity.” A constitutionally permissible public purpose must involve “a reasonable connection with the [the state’s] convenience and necessity; and . . . benefits the public generally, as opposed to special interests or persons.”

The majority first declares that giving public money to “lower-income families so that their children have additional educational opportunities is well within the scope of permissible governmental action and is intimately related to the needs of our state’s citizenry.” Setting aside the obvious disconnect between this purported goal and the numerous other recent legislative acts that have made it more difficult for poor children to gain access to quality educational resources, this is an interesting descriptor: “lower-income.” Currently, voucher-eligible families must earn at or below 133 percent of the income qualification for the free or reduced-price lunch program. But every other voucher program across the country that was initially touted as giving educational opportunity to poor children was quickly expanded to include middle class families.

 

Source: No ‘public purpose’ in school vouchers | News & Observer

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