News: Quick Takes

School choice advocates file brief to dismiss Cooper lawsuit

Law legal justice concept image -
Law legal justice concept image -

Enough is enough, say school voucher advocates who want a three-judge Superior Court panel to dismiss Gov. Roy Cooper’s lawsuit against North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship program.

Opportunity Scholarships are state-funded vouchers that allow middle and low-income families to opt-out of public education and send their children to private schools.

On Wednesday, Jan. 31, Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina — an education nonprofit — filed an amicus brief in a lawsuit between Cooper and the General Assembly. Cooper wants to overturn a 2016 law that, among other things, guarantees an annual $10 million increase in scholarship money until the 2028-29 school year. N.C. House and Senate leaders Tim Moore and Phil Berger, respectively, are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The action is one of several lawsuits filed by Cooper during his first 13 months in office.

Cooper cut all money for Opportunity Scholarships from his 2017 budget proposal. The program robs public schools of money, and tax dollars shouldn’t go to private schools, Cooper said. The General Assembly restored the funding.

Scholarships max out at an annual $4,200 per student. More than 6,775 children are enrolled in the program.

If Cooper wins the case, those students will lose, said PEFNC President Darrell Allison.

“I’m afraid the governor is choosing politics over parents. … He campaigned aggressively against the program and has continued his relentless assault since assuming office.”

Guaranteed funding increases are constitutional, Allison said, pointing to similar models used for college financial aid.

This isn’t the first time Opportunity Scholarships have gone to court. Democrats unsuccessfully challenged the program’s constitutionality after state lawmakers green-lighted the scholarships in 2013. The state Supreme Court in 2015 ruled the program constitutional.

The crusade against school choice is counter-productive and ultimately hurts low-income families, Allison said.

“Rather than filing another lawsuit, the governor should put the needs of underprivileged children and parents above politics and personal preference. Though such preferences and policy may be appropriate for political discussion, they are not appropriate to guide the judicial action in this case.”

“We hope that the court dismisses the governor’s lawsuit.”