Patterson Harkavy Files Suit Challenging Constitutionality of Private School Voucher Scheme

Burton Craige and Narendra Ghosh filed suit this morning in Wake County Superior Court challenging the school voucher law passed by the General Assembly last session.  Representing a diverse group of twenty-five plaintiffs from across North Carolina, Burton and Narendra allege that the voucher scheme violates the North Carolina Constitution.  The lawsuit is sponsored by the North Carolina Association of Educators and the North Carolina Justice Center.

The voucher scheme will divert millions of dollars from North Carolina public schools to privates schools.  Private schools receiving such funds are subject to almost no restrictions or obligations.  They can be operated by inexperienced and unaccredited institutions, can hire unqualified and unsafe teachers and employees, can teach using haphazard and unproven methods, can fail to improve student knowledge and performance in any measurable way, and can discriminate in admission and treatment of students on the basis of religion, socioeconomic status, or physical or mental disability.

The Complaint alleges that the program violates various provisions of the North Carolina Constitution, including the requirement that money provided for public education be “used exclusively for establishing and maintaining a uniform system of free public schools” under Article IX, Section 6, and the requirement that “[t]he power of taxation shall be exercised in a just and equitable manner, for public purposes only” under Article V, Section 2(1).

The plaintiffs include educational leaders such as former Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Ward and former Shaw University president John Lucas; members of the clergy such as Rev. Arnetta Beverly of Guilford County and Rev. T. Anthony Spearman of Catawba County; public school teachers such as George Loucks and Wanda Kindell of Cumberland County; and parents of public school students such as Valerie Johnson of Durham County and Brittany Williams of Johnston County.

Burton discussed the lawsuit at a press conference held this morning at the headquarters of the North Carolina Association of Educators.  For more information, read the NCAE’s press release, the Complaint, or early news coverage of the suit.