FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 20, 2014
RALEIGH - At the end of three hours of heated arguments, veteran Judge Robert A. Hobgood made two decisions on Monday. First he denied the request by lawyers defending the Tea Party's vouchers program to dismiss the lawsuit brought by progressive community leaders to stop the duplicitous attack on public education. Then he announced to the packed courtroom that he would consider the request by community leaders for a temporary injunction that would stop the vouchers in their tracks while those of us who are opposed gather further evidence for a full trial later this year.
The historic arguments on the motion to issue a temporary injunction against the vouchers will be heard Friday, Feb. 21, at 9:30 am in courtroom 10-B of the old Wake County courthouse, 316 Fayetteville Street.
The NC NAACP, composed of over 100 adult, youth and college branches, was recognized as a 'Friend of the Court' in the case. We filed a brief that summarized the historical use of vouchers in North Carolina as a means to promote virtually all-white private schools in contempt of the 1954 Brown decision from the Supreme Court that found segregated schools unconstitutional. Now, 60 years later, 25 North Carolina community leaders, school board members, teachers and principals, pulled together by the North Carolina Association of Educators and the NC Justice Center, have joined forces with the NAACP to say "Never Again."
By taking public money and giving it to predominantly white private schools, the plaintiffs argue that the voucher program violates the North Carolina constitution, which mandates that each child has a right to a sound, basic education and that taxpayer money must "be faithfully appropriated and used exclusively for establishing and maintaining a uniform system of free public schools."
The current Tea Party leaders put forth a new version of school vouchers last year. They hid the voucher program in Budget Director Art Pope's budget proposal, which then quietly passed with no debate.
During Monday's hearing, Judge Hobgood went straight to the heart of the dispute. He asked the attorneys who were defending the voucher program to explain why the state's budget provided $10+ million for the vouchers on one page, and on the next page subtracted the same amount from public schools' funding.
The Pope budget subtracted almost $11 million of taxpayer dollars that were collected "exclusively" for public schools and hid them in a "scholarship" budget category in the UNC system's budget that supports the new voucher program. Observers say the $10+ million voucher program is part of a long-range plan by Tea Party extremists to further destabilize public schools across the state. Even before this drain of public money, North Carolina ranked 48th in the nation for per-pupil allocations in our public schools.
The NC NAACP was the main target of the race-based voucher system devised by the overt segregationists in the General Assembly after 1954. Then, the NAACP stood alone with only a few white allies who put principle over their political careers to try to stop the "massive resistance" strategy of the segregationists in the legislature.
Today, the NAACP -- for 105 years the voice of poor and minority children and their families -- has hundreds of strong organizational allies in this battle. There are scores of county school boards, teachers associations, hundreds of churches and religious leaders and some of the best lawyers in the state standing with the NAACP. The NC NAACP is represented by the UNC Center for Civil Rights attorneys Mark Dorosin and Elizabeth Haddix. Former Supreme Court Justice Robert Orr, former Chief Deputy Attorney General Ed Speas and Burton Craig, one of the best civil rights lawyers in the state, will argue for a temporary injunction Friday morning.
"A diverse, well-funded public school system is the cornerstone of a successful state," said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, NC NAACP President. "The extremists' attack on public education is a blatant attempt to further drain our schools of resources. It will not help the great majority of black and other children of color, who will be further isolated and stranded in under-funded public schools."
Dr. Barber went on to stress:
- Voucher supporters have touted this initiative as an attempt to support and provide equal opportunities for low-income students, white and black. But historically, whites in North Carolina have used vouchers to keep the school systems racially segregated. Instead of pursuing desegregation ordered by the Supreme Court's order in Brown, the General Assembly provided funds and political sanction for vouchers to white students to enroll in all-white private schools.
- Many majority-black counties in NC are still home to private schools with student populations 95 percent or more white. And the pro-voucher advocates have themselves admitted to needing minority spokespeople to legitimize their current efforts to shift public money to private schools.
- The NC NAACP brief -- available here -- quotes advice from two of the architects of the 'voucher movement' to the virtually all-white coalitions of parents they have tried to organize. They wrote that, to be successful, school-choice coalitions "must include and feature actors who are identified publicly with groups that advertise their concern for the disadvantaged. The leadership must visibly include racial minorities of both sexes and prominent Democrats.... the conservative commitment to the project is necessary, but should remain muteuntil the coalition has secured leadership whose party affiliation, social class or race--preferably all three--displays what the media will interpret as concern for the disadvantaged."
- The 1868 North Carolina constitution declares taxpayer money "shall be faithfully appropriated and used exclusively for establishing and maintaining a uniform system of free public schools." Using over $10 million to send a handful of children to private schools is not a good-faith appropriation of taxpayers' money. Nor is it consistent with the right, guaranteed in the North Carolina constitution, of every child to a sound basic education.
"The Forward Together Moral Movement will not rest until North Carolina upholds its constitutional and moral responsibilities to ensure every child receives a well-funded public education," Dr. Barber said. "We know what game the school-choice movement is playing. They have played it before. And we will not be fooled by these laws that aim to damage and dismantle our statewide public education system."