N.C. Supreme Court Rules That Public Tax Dollars Can Be Used To For Religious, Private School Attendance
RALEIGH — The N.C. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that North Carolina can use public tax dollars to help children attend private and religious schools.
The 4-3 decision reverses a ruling last summer by Judge Robert Hobgood in N.C. Superior Court.
The decision, which broke along political party lines with four Republican justices ruling to uphold the program and the three Democrats dissenting, means $10.8 million is freed for a program that has sparked much debate. State lawmakers want to provide $17.6 million in vouchers for the coming school year and to expand the program’s income-eligibility guidelines.
The four justices who ruled for the voucher program – Chief Justice Mark Martin and Justices Robert Edmunds, Barbara Jackson and Paul Newby – concluded that using tax dollars for education was a public purpose.
In his majority opinion, Martin wrote that, according to the most recent figures published by the Department of Public Instruction, a large percentage of economically disadvantaged students in North Carolina are not grade-level proficient in the subjects tested on the state’s end-of-year exams.
“Disagreement exists as to the innovations and reforms necessary to address this and other educational issues in our state,” Martin acknowledged in the ruling. “Our state and country benefit from the debate between those with differing viewpoints in this quintessentially political dialogue.
“Such discussions inform the legislative process. But the role of judges is distinguishable, as we neither participate in this dialogue nor assess the wisdom of legislation.”
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