In A Victory for Public Education Judge Says NC School Vouchers Are Unconstitutional


For the past decade, Republicans have been on a tear to blatantly transfer taxpayer money directly to private enterprises without regard for the needs of the people. Whether it is privatizing Medicare, Social Security, social services, or education, Republicans have devised various schemes to appropriate taxpayer money to profit their donors; including churches Hell-bent on inculcating Christianity in private religious schools at the expense of public education.

One of the most important clauses in the U.S. Constitution is the General Welfare clause in Article I – section 8 that reads, “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.” According to the Founding Fathers and first four Presidents George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, taxes providing for the ‘general welfare’ were to provide housing, food, medical care, and education for the poor among other domestic programs. In fact, one of the authors of the Constitution, James Madison killed legislation giving taxpayer money to churches anxious to profit from pretending to provide for the people because the Founders believed the government should never, never ever, give money to churches for anything; including education.

Republicans believe America’s first four Presidents were completely wrong and in several states are regularly taking government money intended for public education and handing it directly to private Christian schools under the guise of vouchers for “charter schools,” a clear violation of the Constitution. In North Carolina last week, a judge finally struck down a Republican school voucher scam to transfer public school funding directly to private religious schools as patently unconstitutional, and elucidated why vouchers, charter schools, and private religious schools fail constitutional muster.

The judge, Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood, identified the Republican legislation, “Opportunity Scholarship Program,” as a scam to “siphon money from the public schools in favor of private schools and allows funding of non-public schools that discriminate on account of religion.” The judge was not finished, and besides decrying the obscenity of school vouchers, he correctly identified the major flaw in charter schools; they have no obligation to teach anything. Hopefully, President Obama will pay attention and stop listening to charter advocates like education secretary Arne Duncan and an ever-growing cabal of school privatization advisors within his Administration.

Just a few of the reasons the judge gave for ruling school vouchers unconstitutional are: appropriates to private schools grades K-12, by use of funds which apparently have gone to the university system budget but which should be used exclusively for establishing and maintaining the uniform system of free public schools, appropriates education funds in a manner that does not accomplish a public purpose, appropriates educational funds outside the supervision and administration of the state board of education, and appropriates taxpayer funds to educational institutions that have no standards, curriculum and requirements for teachers and principals to be certified.” In essence, the judge concluded that the North Carolina legislation “fails the children of North Carolina when they are sent with public taxpayer money to private schools that have no legal obligation to teach them anything.”

Republicans had included a statement in their voucher legislation they assumed would protect their religious privatization scam by stipulating that “scholarship grant funds awarded to eligible students attending a non-public school shall not be considered funding from the state of North Carolina.” The Judge was not fooled and noted in his ruling that nowhere in the state’s General Statutes is there any provision for scholarship grants to come from any source other than taxpayer funds. He said, “If scholarship grants shall not be considered funding from the state of North Carolina, this court is at a complete loss to understand the source of those funds. Follow the money. The clear legislative intent is to utilize taxpayer money to fund private schools.”

Judge Hobgood recognized, and reminded Republicans, that the state had an obligation to provide a “sound basic education” to the children attending public schools in North Carolina as mandated by the Supreme Court in its Leandro decision . He said, “The General Assembly cannot constitutionally delegate this responsibility to unregulated private schools by use of taxpayer opportunity scholarships to parents who have self-assessed their children to be at risk.” The parents who demanded that taxpayers pay for their children’s private religious education were represented by a Koch brother-backed law firm, Institute for Justice, and contended they would be harmed if the court did not help implement the theft of public school money to profit private religious schools. Private schools that Judge Hobgood accurately noted received taxpayer dollars yet were “not subject to any requirements or standards regarding the curriculum that they teach, have no requirements for student achievement, are not obligated to demonstrate any growth in student performance, and are not even obligated to provide a minimum amount of instructional time.” Whether the Judge realized it or not, he defined, quite accurately, what charter schools entail and why school vouchers are a scam and outright theft of taxpayer money meant for public education.

There has been an ongoing Justice Department, and other plaintiffs’, lawsuit targeting Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s voucher privatization scam that records revealed multiple schools accepting school vouchers actually disclosed “discriminatory policies such as the legal right to expel gay and lesbian students as well as admitted to charging the state more in tuition for students who are not members of the private school’s sponsoring churches.” In fact, Jindal has thumbed his nose at the Constitution for years by continuing to steal taxpayer money intended for public schools to provide funding for private and charter religious schools. Of course, Jindal blames President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder for the Department of Justice portion of the lawsuits by claiming “This is shameful. President Obama and Attorney General Holder are trying to keep kids trapped in failing public schools against the wishes of their parents.” These are parents that insist on taxpayers funding their children’s religious instruction, and if Jindal and the Republican legislature were not robbing public education funds, public schools would not be failing.

Republicans claim, ad nauseum, that they are the champions of the original intent of the Founding Fathers, and yet they have consistently opposed the concept that taxpayer dollars are meant to “provide for the general welfare of the people;” not churches, not private religious schools, and definitely not at the expense of public education. Although the Judge’s ruling was a defeat for school vouchers and Koch and Art Pope-backed privatization efforts, his portrayal of charter schools as “not subject to any requirements or standards regarding the curriculum that they teach, have no requirements for student achievement, are not obligated to demonstrate any growth in student performance, and are not even obligated to provide a minimum amount of instructional time” was priceless, and accurate.

This is not to say that there are no private religious, or charter schools, providing a decent education to their “customers,” there are. However, they are under no obligation to provide an education to prepare students to compete with public school students who are not indoctrinated with anti-science, bastardized history, and religious mythos. The Founding Fathers were specific that taxpayer money was to provide for, among other things, the general welfare of the people that included a sound public education; something Republicans have decided is the purview of private, for profit, enterprises that are more often than not religious schools stealing from taxpayers to inculcate students into the Christian religion.


19 Replies to “In A Victory for Public Education Judge Says NC School Vouchers Are Unconstitutional”

  1. Finally, A Judge that calls it what it is!! The bible beaters in NC want to hijack public education and dismantle it in the process for their own selfish benefits. If this Judge did not intervene there would be a private school on every block alongside the existing church siphoning every tax dollar they can get with their tax exempt status.

  2. Many Republicans would love to see the public education system be financially gutted and instead have the private education system be government-subsidized. One reason: they regard any form of public education (k-12 or college) as part of a subversive left-wing plot to corrupt and brainwash our youth.

    Unlike the public school system, private schools — which are often managed by self-serving corporate profiteers — would not be restricted from propagating right wing revisionist history in their social studies classes, nor proselytizing religious ideology and promoting corporate-funded anti-environmental propaganda in the science classroom.

  3. Vouchers are intended to allow students from highly motivated families attend costly private schools which they would otherwise not be able to attend. The funding for the vouchers comes from the state or federal government, i.e., the government is essentially subsidizing the private school industry.
    Since private schools can select student admittance based on the family’s financial status and academic ability, this would create a further divide between the “haves” and “have nots” in our society.

    Vouchers only account for a portion of the cost of tuition at a private school, so families in the lower third of the economic range would still be excluded from attending, resulting in the public school system being further saturated with the poorest students, the lowest achieving students (including ELD and learning disabled), and those that are least motivated to attain academic success.

  4. Furthermore, comparing performance data between public and private schools is not scientifically valid — the latter can select students for admission based on entrance qualifications, and they can remove students from their programs based on poor conduct or academic performance.
    Therefore, the performance data becomes extremely skewed compared with public schools which legally must accept anyone who resides within its residency boundaries.

  5. But of course the private-school industry will pay to have this taken to a higher court with a conservative majority, and the Good Ol’ Boy system will restore the graft status quo.

  6. I keep reading how the US is “so far behind” other countries in test scores. Are any of those asserting this teacher? Do they know how the system works?
    1. Who and how is taught?
    Students in the US have to be educated in the same classroom; regardless of the child’s learning disabilities. According to federal law school HAVE TO educate children in the “Least Restrictive Environment”.
    Compare that to other industrialized nations: Students are “tracked”. That is, they are placed in separate schools according to their needs/talent/behavior. The very bright go to a school for college-bound children. Those who cannot comport themselves go to a different school. Children with learning disability go to yet another school. Finally, those students who want to learn a trade go to a school which meets their needs.
    2. Who is tested?
    In the US ALL students go through standardized testing, regardless of their ability-level, with few exceptions. Moreover, NCLB (No Child Left Behind…

  7. I have always thought the best system would be one that early on checks the talents of the student and what they should or could be prepared for. This would open up the field for all types of schools. There are kids who will go to college. Some will go to technical schools, Some to art academys, Dance etc etc. Everyone has an aptitude for something and that can be discerned.

  8. These charter schools do not require certified educators, names and salaries of those teaching are not made public to the taxpayer’s unlike the public school teachers and administration, they do not have to admit students that are deemed Special Education status, they do not provide free lunch to the poor students, and they do not provide bus service. Judge Hobgood’s decision was the correct one, but our State Attorney General has already announced he will appeal it to the Appellate Court of NC and with a majority of conservative judges, it is doubtful that Judge Hobgood’s decision will stand.

  9. There are alternatives to taxpayer-funded school vouchers. They’re known as privately funded vouchers.
    The one I know of is that of my home Catholic diocese. The bishop raises money every spring to fund the diocese, including funding for education vouchers. If the parents of a parochial school student cannot afford the full tuition, the diocese, if the parents apply, will partially foot the bill. But not one red cent comes from taxpayers.
    Then there’s the privatization scam that forces taxpayers to line the pockets of charlatans better known as charter schools. Most of the taxpayer money goes to line the pockets of the executives, leaving little for teachers and students.

  10. I agree with the basic principles. But here in Buffalo, NY we have several charter schools. In most of them the kids are doing better because they don’t have to deal with kids who want to come into school and be disruptive. They do kick out kids with conduct disorders; especially when the parents refuse to get involved. These charter schools are not linked with churches. Our public schools say they cannot segregate kids with behavioral problems – whether the parents get involved or not. It’s really a Catch-22 situation.

    Also the public school system here doesn’t seem to mind too much. they give out less per kid than they take in. So if they end up $3,000 ahead per kid and they sent 4,000 kids to charter schools the system ends up $12 million richer than if they educated those same kids. So what do you tell the parents of those kids at charter when all they want is for their kids to have a chance to go to school and learn?

  11. I would tell them 1. Charters as a rule do not have any better record then public schools.
    2. Your money is going to the people who invest in these schools.

  12. Good on the part of Judge Hobgood for recognizing this RW NC charter school scheme for what it is–a transfer of financial resources from public to religious schools. After the idea of diverting funding from public to religious schools was developed, some high-level and wealthy individuals have gotten in on the game. Members of the Bush family have a scam to “educate” school administrators by focusing on teaching them how to run a school like a business, others are selling textbooks and standardized tests, and some are becoming highly paid administrators in charter/parochial schools. A “charter” school’s administrators fled from MN a couple years ago and relocated to FL, after having taken millions in taxpayer dollars. Indicative of the lack of accountability in many of these schools was the fact that only one student in the entire school received passing scores in math and science on a standardized test! They took the money and ran and were welcomed to FL with open arms.

  13. Another liberal attempt to keep the masses poor and uneducated. “We are the elite, We know best and we will take care of you!”

  14. …yeah, let the Kochs {et al} and the Koch-suckers pay for ALL thier projects outta thier OWN pockets…
    …it’ll never happen, but a body can dream…

  15. The KochTeapublicans party wants to privatize EVERYTHING! How many people out there realize that the Koch’s originated the TeaParty and then called it a grass roots organization. There are documentaries on this all over Netflix. They are the big money behind Americans for Prosperity, Citizens United, etc., etc. Those sleazy slime balls couldn’t win elections so they are trying to run this country by buying elected officials and using unsuspecting Americans to make it look like “they” are “we the people”. I pray to God that the majority of people are paying attention to what is going on and everyone gets out and votes “D” in November!!!

  16. We need to make it happen! As long as we sit on our hands and “dream” it will never happen. Do your part to get out there and get others out there to vote Blue in November and we can put a stop to the Koch Rule. No party is perfect but no party is so completely corrupt as the Republican Party has become over the last 30 years. Only “we the people” can put a stop to that by knowing who to vote for and who not to vote for. There is no excuse for ignorance…the information is out there, find it and make it happen! God help us all if the majority doesn’t get it.

  17. Stop the Koch’s Teapublican rule! Vote Blue even if you are not a Dem…it is the best choice we have right now. The GOP is totally corrupt now…all the good ones either went to Blue or retired. Then we might have a chance to retire some of those activist judges on the SCO

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