After discussing the issue during last week’s work session, the Sampson County Board of Education voted Monday night during its regular meeting to throw its support behind the North Carolina School Boards Association (NCSBA) and its lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of recent school voucher legislation.
Heeding the call of the NCSBA, the county school board has now added its name to a resolution which stresses members’ opposition to the school voucher program and joins them with numerous other school boards across the state that are on the list of plaintiffs in the pending legislation.
Passed by the General Assembly last year, the Opportunity Scholarships Act sets out to establish this new school voucher program, one where taxpayer dollars would be used to fund grants which would help certain eligible students attend private schools. Legislators have designated $10 million in the budget for the program thus far, an amount which could help make it possible for approximately 2,500 students to attend private school on state education dollars starting in the 2014-15 school year.
According to the act, students eligible to participate in the program would be those who are full-time, currently attending a public school, and “reside in a household with an income level not in excess of the amount required for the student to qualify for the federal free or reduced price lunch program.”
After completing an application and then being selected, the chosen students could receive grants worth up to $4,200 per year, an amount that would be taken off public schools’ allotment and would be used to pay for some, but probably not all, of the selected students’ private school tuition.
In mid-December, the NCSBA filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the school voucher legislation and then asked that the 115 local boards of education throughout the state show their support of the lawsuit by signing a resolution.
County schools’ interim superintendent Mike Warren shared at last week’s work session that “over half of the systems” or “close to 50” school systems across the state have already adopted and signed the resolution. He explained that signing the resolution comes down to “simply adding our support to the lawsuit that’s been filed, arguing that it’s unconstitutional and that it be reversed.”
During thework session, all board members expressed a desire to adopt the resolution, agreeing to place the item on the consent agenda for Monday night. Their desire did not waver come the regular board meeting; school board vice chairwoman Faye Gay made a motion to approve the items on the consent agenda with G.H. Wilson offering the needed second. All consent agenda items — the voucher litigation resolution and budget amendment #8 — were approved unanimously.
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.