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NC teachers group files lawsuit against voucher program

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RALEIGH—The North Carolina Association of Educators is taking aim at new legislation creating vouchers for low income students to attend private school.

They are challengeing the private school voucher program that gives eligible students up to $4,200 in funding to attend a private school. They say the program will hurt the state's education system as a whole.

“Vouchers are bad public policy.  They tear away millions of dollars that are badly needed by the schools,” said Mike Ward, former NC Superintendent of Public Instruction. 

This year the state budget appropriated $10 million for the program. It will award eligible students vouchers of up to $4,200 to use at private schools starting next year.

However, Wednesday morning the group along with the NC Justice Center announced their mission to stop the program before it starts.

“Using public money to pay for private schools is part of a broad assault on public schools and on the constitution of our state," said president of the NCAE Rodney Ellis.

They filed a lawsuit saying it's unconstitutional to use public, taxpayer dollars for a private education.

“Public funds that we devote to education must be spent exclusively for establishing and maintaining free public schools,” said Melinda Lawrence, executive director of NC Justice Center.

They say the vouchers will drain money from the public school system which is already strapped for cash and struggling. They said private schools participating in the program aren't obligated to admit or accommodate students with disabilities.

“Instead of writing public school funding to enact and expand a voucher plan. The legislature should be about the process of providing adequate resources for students in public schools,” Ward said.

Supporters of the program say this lawsuit will only keep poor and disabled kids in failing schools, but those against vouchers argue that just isn't the case.

“Students, families, and taxpayers deserve better than this,” said Ward.

In a joint statement, Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis responded:

Not only are these left-wing interest groups fighting every attempt to improve public education, they now want to trap underprivileged and disabled children in low-performing schools where they will continue to fall behind their peers. Their shameful and defeatist mission will only hurt these students and our state.

Berger and Tillis noted that 16 other states plus the District of Columbia have similar, successful programs. They said the meritless lawsuit is the latest example of liberal special interests abusing the legal system to try to erase their electoral losses at the hands of the voters.

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