Friday, February 14, 2014

The NC NAACP Files a Friend of the Court Brief in Suit Challenging the State's New Voucher Program

February 14, 2014

For More Information: Atty. Mark Dorosin, UNC Center for Civil Rights, 919.445.0174
Atty. Jamie Phillips Cole, NC NAACP Public Policy Coordinator, 919.682.4700 
NC NAACP's Brief Challenges Latest Extremist Attack on Our Children, Cites the Ugly History of Vouchers as a Strategy for Impeding Integrated, Well-Funded Public Schools

RALEIGH - On the birthday of Lincoln and the NAACP, the NC NAACP filed a brief in Wake County Court challenging the constitutionality of the extremists' new school voucher program. This program was passed last year as part of a regressive attack on public school teachers and county school systems. It will transfer $11 million from public schools to a fund that will give $4200 in taxpayer dollars to a small proportion of students whose parents want to enroll their kids in private schools.

Twenty-five plaintiffs--ranging from community leaders, school board members, teachers and principals--sued the extremist government for passing another unconstitutional law. They alleged the voucher program violated the North Carolina constitutional requirement that each child receive a sound, basic education. The North Carolina Association or Educators, which has been the target of several other attacks by the extremist General Assembly over the past two years, along with the NC Justice Center are organizational plaintiffs. 

The NC NAACP, the main target of the voucher system devised by segregationists in the 1960's after the NAACP won the transformative Brown v. Board decision in 1954 outlawing school segregation based on race, has been recognized as a friend of the court. The NC NAACP, represented by the UNC Center for Civil Rights, filed its brief to provide an historical context for the Court. 

Judge Robert H. Hobgood from Franklin County, an elected Superior Court Judge for 34 years, will preside over a hearing in the case on Monday morning, Feb. 17, at 10 a.m. in court room 10C, at the old Wake County courthouse, located at 316 Fayetteville Street in Raleigh.  NAACP members, Forward Together-Moral Monday partners and other people interested in saving our struggling public schools are encouraged to attend.

"A diverse, well-funded public school system is the cornerstone of a successful state," said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, president of the NC NAACP. "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.

"The brief points out that the extremists, which have pushed 'vouchers' for years, have admitted it tries to get a few minority children and parents as public relations images to disguise the racialist purposes and patterns behind their ploy," Dr. Barber continued. "The Forward Together Moral Movement will not rest until North Carolina upholds its constitutional and moral responsibilities to ensure every child receives well-funded public education opportunities."

Through the debate over the voucher program, many conservatives have couched their support for the measure by saying it would provide educational equity for minority and low-income students.

In its brief, the NC NAACP refutes these claims and argues instead that the empirical evidence shows voucher systems tend not to effectively serve low-income minority students and more often than not leave them worse off. The entire brief is available here.

The NC NAACP cited the historical role that private-school vouchers played in allowing North Carolina to retain segregated school systems in the decade after the 1954 Brown v Board decision. Instead of desegregating their schools, per the Supreme Court's order, many NC counties simply provided vouchers to white students to apply to all-white private schools.

"The ploy of state oversight helped legitimize the use of taxpayer dollars to fund white families' abandonment of desegregated public schools and to subsidize racially segregated private schools," the NAACP brief says. "This is the direct and notorious ancestry of school vouchers in North Carolina, and the corrupt foundation upon which the current voucher legislation is built."

Many majority-black counties in NC are still home to private schools with student populations 95 percent or more white. The voucher system, the NAACP argued, will only continue this regressive trend, by unconstitutionally using public tax dollars to fund virtually all-white academies.

The brief ends by saying: "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."

The NC NAACP's brief can be accessed here. 


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