Kids running

PEFNC President Responds to Lawsuit Challenging Parental School Choice

RALEIGH – Below is a statement from Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC), regarding the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship Program, which received bipartisan support in the legislature.

“Parental School choice is an idea whose time has come in North Carolina.  This lawsuit is nothing more than a desperate attempt by opponents of parent choice to cling to an unacceptable status quo for low income students to stay in schools that are simply not working for them,” said Allison.  “Our recent statewide report card from our very own NC Department of Public Instruction justifies why The Opportunity Scholarship Program must be launched in 2014. According to their ‘own’ report, nearly 70 percent of low income students in North Carolina failed to meet proficiency standards.

To be clear, the Opportunity Scholarship Program is not meant to supplant  our traditional public school system, but was enacted to supplement our traditional public system. North Carolina courts have already held that nothing prevents the state from creating additional opportunities outside of the traditional public school system.  Can anyone justifiably argue that real alternatives are not desperately needed for our poorest of children, where only 29 percent of them are at grade level?

For many of those children that are trapped in a school that is not working for them today, the Opportunity Scholarship Program could provide immediate relief for many of them the next school year. With several hundreds of thousands of low income children year after year failing to meet basic educational standards, we can no longer afford to turn a deaf ear or a blind eye to the educational crisis that is happening in our own backyard. We must remember that we all, wealthy, middle-class and poor are equally taxpayers and citizens of this great state. Our constitution demands an adequate education for all children. For our poor, that is not the case.

We’re fighting for the principle that no kid should be forced to attend a school that continues to fail them another year, and we’re fighting to ensure that parents have the choice to send their child to a better performing school, whether that school is public or private. I submit to you that the very lawsuit filed by opponents regarding this program should be held unconstitutional and should be quickly dismissed. The status quo is simply unacceptable.”

The United States Supreme Court has held that school choice programs whose purpose is to provide greater educational opportunities to parents in low-income communities is legal and constitutional.

Find a fact sheet on the Opportunity Scholarship Program and previous legal challenges to school choice here.

The Opportunity Scholarship program, passed in July 2013, creates scholarships of up to $4,200 so that low-income and working-class children in grades K-12 have access to schools that can best meet their educational needs.

The scholarships will be available for the 2014-15 school year.  The application period will begin February 1, 2014 and parents will be notified of scholarship status starting March 1, 2014.

- end –