With the new year comes new hopes and new opportunities. Perhaps nowhere is that more true than in North Carolina, where the Legislature recently enacted a new school choice program for low-income students. The Opportunity Scholarship Program allows low-income children to attend private schools of their parents’ choice through state-funded scholarships. Unfortunately, the teachers’ union has filed suit to prevent these families from having a choice in the district where their children are educated. After the trial court struck down the program as unconstitutional in two cases this August, the North Carolina Supreme Court took the cases for review. Yesterday, PLF filed this amicus brief at the North Carolina Supreme Court defending the Opportunity Scholarship Program and the right of parents to choose the school that is best for their children.
In Richardson v. North Carolina and Hart v. North Carolina, PLF’s brief explains that, contrary to plaintiffs’ allegations, the scholarship program serves important public purposes. First, the program improves educational outcomes by empowering parents to choose the school that is right for their children. Parents not only know their children best, they know what’s best for their children. That’s why there are countless studies (here, here, and here) showing that school choice programs lead to better results in education.
Second, the program allows children attending a failing—and often dangerous—school a chance to escape to a safe and successful school. The pass rate in North Carolina schools is bad enough; only 32 percent of students passed the end-of-grade math and reading tests in the 2012-13 school year. That number is even worse for low-income students, who passed at a dismal 17.4 percent. The status quo is unacceptable, and PLF hopes that the North Carolina Supreme Court will uphold the Opportunity Scholarship Program for children across North Carolina. These children deserve the hope and opportunity we all anticipate with a new year.
Many thanks to our local counsel Richard Vinroot and Matthew Tilley of Robinson, Bradshaw and Hinson for their contributions to the brief.