Center for Civil Rights Files Amicus Brief in School Voucher Case

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UPDATE: On Friday February 21, Judge Robert Hobgood granted the Plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction and stopping the implementation of the voucher program. No voucher payments will be made in 2014-15. The State and the pro-voucher Institute of Justice, which intervened in the case, is expected to appeal the ruling. The Center looks forward to continuing to represent the NC NAACP in defending this landmark victory.

In December 2013, twenty-five North Carolina residents, ranging from community leaders, school board members, parents, teachers and principals, filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the private school voucher legislation passed by the General Assembly last summer. A parallel suit was filed by the NC School Boards’ Association and 40 individual school boards. These suits assert that the new $10 million voucher program, which will provide taxpayer-funded subsidies to parents who pull their children out of the public schools and enroll them in private schools, violates numerous provisions of the North Carolina Constitution regarding the right to education, the use of state money for public purposes only, and the prohibition on discrimination. The plaintiffs are seeking to enjoin the implementation of the voucher program. In January, the State moved to dismiss the case.

Read the complaint (PDF), and the memorandum (PDF) in support of the preliminary injunction.

The Center for Civil Rights, representing the NC NAACP, filed a “friend of the court” brief in support of the plaintiffs. The brief highlights the historical and continuing segregationist legacy of private school education in North Carolina, as well as the misleading tactics and claims of voucher proponents. Read the Center’s brief (PDF).

The brief cites the State’s original attempt to use taxpayer vouchers for private schools following the decision in Brown v. Board decision. The Pearsall Plan, declared unconstitutional in 1966, would have allowed districts to avoid resegregating by closing their schools, and then providing vouchers to white students to attend segregated private schools.

In 1968, when meaningful desegregation efforts began, the number of students in private schools began to rise. From 1968 to 1972 private school enrollment nearly tripled from approximately 18,000 to over 50,000, and the number of private schools jumped from 174 in 1968 to 263 in 1972. Private school enrollment was often concentrated in areas with high concentrations of African-American students. The segregative legacy of these private schools and academies continues to this day:

  • Bertie County is 62% African American. Lawrence Academy was founded in Bertie County in 1968. Its student body is 98% white.
  • Halifax County is 53% African-American. Halifax Academy and Hobgood Academy were both founded in 1969. Halifax Academy is 98% white; Hobgood Academy is 95% white.
  • Hertford County is over 60% African-American. Ridgecroft School, founded in 1968, is 97% white.

The voucher system, the amicus brief argued, will only continue this trend, unconstitutionally using public tax dollars to fund racially segregated schools.

The brief concludes: "To financially support with taxpayers' money, and provide state sanction to schools that have, by history and practice, created and maintained a means for white families seeking to avoid attending integrated public schools is a betrayal of the constitutional imperative of Brown and the sacrifices and long struggles of thousands of Black and White and Native Americans in North Carolina to address the state's history of racial segregation in the education of its children."

On Monday, February 17, Judge Robert H. Hobgood denied the State’s motion to dismiss. A hearing on the plaintiffs’ motion for premolar injunction will be held on Friday, February 21, at 9:30 a.m. at the old Wake County Courthouse.

Posted by Mark Dorosin on Tue. February 25, 2014 10:30 AM
Categories: Amicus Curiae, Education, Race Discrimination
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