Editorial: Just Say No To Vouchers

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The Greensboro News and Record is out with an editorial urging the NC Supreme Court to rule private school vouchers unconstitutional, focusing in large part on taxpayer money going to religious schools and the inequities between accountability measures for public and private schools. 

From the editorial,

Many North Carolina taxpayers might be surprised to learn that, in addition to supporting public education, they’re paying for students to attend Christian, Jewish and Islamic schools, all in the name of “equal opportunity.”

A Superior Court judge last year found this program unconstitutional, but the N.C. Supreme Court suspended his order pending an appeal. It will hear arguments in the case Tuesday. It also should say no.

The Opportunity Scholarship Program provides up to $4,200 a year for children from low-income families to attend any private school that’s willing to participate. The idea, according to the Pacific Legal Foundation, which filed a brief in support of the program, is to “give all North Carolina students equal educational opportunities, regardless of income, race or region.”

That goal lends the program a “public purpose,” supporters say. Except, it doesn’t really.

A grant of $4,200 doesn’t give a poor family an “equal opportunity” to send its child to the same school that a wealthy family can afford. For example, tuition at Greensboro Day School for children in grades 1 through 4 is $18,400, leaving the voucher family $14,200 short.

Equality is the first false promise of this program. The second is that any private school is as good as or better than a public school. Yet, the state doesn’t hold participating private schools to any standards. They don’t have to offer small class sizes, teach an approved curriculum or hire certified teachers — or even teachers who pass a criminal background check.

Proponents say parents are the best judge of educational quality. Not necessarily. Some parents might want their children instructed only in their Christian, Jewish or Muslim faith, without regard to academic subjects. There are parents who simply don’t trust “government” schools, or don’t want their children to mix with a public school population. Fine. But their prejudices or religious preferences shouldn’t be supported with tax dollars.

The legal argument against this program rests on accountability and public purpose.

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