Patterson Harkavy attorneys prevail; private school vouchers declared unconstitutional

At a hearing today in Raleigh, Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood declared that North Carolina’s recently-enacted private school voucher program violates various provisions of the North Carolina Constitution, and issued a permanent injunction preventing its implementation. If not for Judge Hobgood’s ruling the program would have taken millions of dollars that should have been spent on North Carolina’s public schools, and used that money to pay private school students’ tuition. Private schools receiving taxpayer funds would not have been required to meet any educational standards: they were not required to provide instruction in any subjects, were not required to employ qualified teachers or principles, and were not required to be accredited by any public or private institution.

Patterson Harkavy attorneys Burton Craige and Narendra Ghosh, working with attorneys from the North Carolina Justice Center, represent the case’s 25 plaintiffs. The State School Board Association, together with over half of North Carolina’s local school boards, is also challenging the constitutionality of the program.

Judge Hobgood found in Plaintiffs’ favor on all of their claims. He found that the Voucher Legislation provides taxpayer funds to private schools in violation of Article IX, Section 6 of the North Carolina Constitution, which requires that those funds be “used exclusively for establishing and maintaining a uniform system of free public schools.” He ruled that providing taxpayer funds to private schools with no standards or accountability does not accomplish a public purpose, in violation of Article V, Section 2. And he found that by sending taxpayer funds to private schools regardless of whether they actually provide a meaningful education, the State violated its duty to “guard and maintain” the public’s right to the privilege of an education under Article I, Section 15.

WRAL has posted a video of Judge Hobgood’s decision, which can be accessed here. The ruling has been already been covered by various media outlets including the Raleigh News & Observer, the Greensboro News & Record, the Charlotte Observer, and the Asheville Citizen-Times.