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N.C. Opinions: Raleigh

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Vouchers raise conflicts

From an editorial in the (Raleigh) News & Observer on Friday:

The state’s new Opportunity Scholarship Program began this week and immediately showed why it shouldn’t begin at all.

More than 5,500 applicants named 440 private schools they hope to attend with the help of taxpayer dollars. Christian schools were the most common choice, but two of the top three named were Muslim schools.

Taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for children to attend private schools, especially religious schools. The $10 million program will award vouchers worth up to $4,200 per child. The state Constitution is clear that tax dollars for education are to go exclusively to public schools. Having the state send tuition checks to schools that are not only private, but religious, adds a federal constitutional issue about the separation of church and state.

Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood saw these conflicts clearly when he said the vouchers appeared unconstitutional and issued an injunction freezing the program until the courts determine whether it was constitutional. The Republican-dominated state Supreme Court ordered that the program proceed.

Thus the program began a lottery Wednesday to select about 2,400 children who will receive state vouchers. The winners will apply to their chosen schools, vouchers checks will go out and the undermining of public schools will begin in earnest.

Except, the legislature is once again trying to push ideology past legality. The constitutional challenge is yet to be resolved. Should the courts decide vouchers violate the state constitution, the Opportunity Scholarship Program will be caught in the lurch.

The Opportunity Scholarship Program is a way of getting the camel’s nose into the tent of vouchers for everyone. Rather than tax sufficiently to support public education, Republicans are giving up on public schools and sending students – and tax dollars – to the exits.

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