Today the North Carolina Supreme Court gave everyone who believes all children deserve access to quality educational opportunities some very good news when it upheld the constitutionality of the state’s Opportunity Scholarship program. The court’s 4-3 decision reversed a lower court decision by Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood.
In writing for the majority, Chief Justice, Mark Martin said plaintiffs had failed to show that the program violates North Carolina’s constitution.
The long-awaited ruling, is expected to lift the cloud of uncertainty which enveloped the scholarship program and likely limited participation in the program.
The Opportunity Scholarship Program offers recipients vouchers of up to $4,200 to attend the school of their choice. To be eligible, an applicant’s household income cannot exceed 133 percent of the eligibility threshold for free and reduced lunch, about $ 58,000 for a family of four.
Despite extended legal problems, interest in the program has remained high. According to Parents for Educational Freedom North Carolina, in 2014 over 5,500 families applied for nearly 2,400 scholarships to attend the school of their choice. Since February 2014, over 11,000 applicants have been received from low-income families around North Carolina.
The Senate included an additional $6.8 million in each of the next two years to expand the Opportunity Scholarship Program. The provision was not included the House budget.
School choice advocates hope the Court’s decision gives lawmakers confidence to expand a very popular and worthwhile program.